Breakout Candidate: Brad Kilby, RP

Major league teams are always on the lookout for good left-handed relievers. It has been awhile since the Oakland A's have drafted and developed a southpaw for their bullpen. It has been more than 20 years since the last lefty reliever that came up exclusively through the A's system had a long-term spot in the A's bullpen. Will Brad Kilby break that streak?

Vital Statistics
Name: Brad Kilby
DOB: 02/19/83
Height: 6'2''
Weight: 225
B/T: L/L

Brad Kilby came into the 2007 season on an upswing. After a slow start to the 2006 season, Kilby finished the year with a bang. He didn't allow a run in July, August or September, saving nine games and striking out 34 in 23 innings during that stretch for Kane County. With that kind of ending to his season, there was some thought coming into 2007 that he would make the jump from Low-A directly to Double-A.

That didn't happen initially, as Kilby wasn't as sharp as he had hoped to be during Spring Training. It didn't take him long to earn that promotion to Double-A, however. The Northern California native appeared in seven games for High-A Stockton and struck out 16 in 8.1 innings and that was enough for the A's to send him to Double-A Midland.

Kilby spent the rest of the year with the Rockhounds, where he handled the transition to the higher level with aplomb. In 65.2 innings, Kilby posted a 2.88 ERA and struck out 69. Once again, Kilby picked up steam during the second half of the season. After the All-Star break, Kilby posted a 2.57 ERA in 35 innings with 40 strike outs. For the entire 2007 campaign, Kilby had a 2.92 ERA with 85 strike outs in 74 innings.

After the season, Kilby was invited to the Arizona Fall League, where he helped the Phoenix Desert Dogs win the AFL Championship. He had a solid ERA (1.59), although he managed only six strike outs against seven walks in 11.1 innings.

Kilby has been a consistently good performer throughout his minor-league career, but improving his command could allow him to make a quick rise to the major leagues. In three seasons, Kilby has a 2.28 ERA in 162.1 innings with 196 strike outs and 62 walks. Kilby did a better job limiting his walks in Double-A last season, which could be a sign that he is starting to refine that command.

The San Jose State alum doesn't throw overly hard (88-91 MPH), but his fastball looks harder than it is because he hides the ball well. Kilby has good sinking action on his pitches and he keeps the ball in the ballpark, allowing only eight homeruns during his career (although six of them came last season). He also features a good change-up that he can use to attack right-handed hitters, and a slider that can be unhittable at times, but can also go flat when he is overthrowing.

Kilby has done a good job versus left-handed hitters during his career. With Midland, Kilby held lefties to a .237 BAA and AFL lefties managed only a .125 BAA. He has generally done a good job versus right-handers, as well, a sign that he wouldn't have to be limited to a lefty specialist's role in the major leagues.

Over the past three seasons, Kilby, who will be 25 throughout the season, has made a gradual and steady climb through the A's system. He should spend most of the season in Triple-A and with a big season, could see the major leagues in September. Kilby will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season, and as a left-handed reliever who can handle hitters on both sides of the plate and has good strike out numbers, he could be vulnerable for selection by another team if the A's don't add him to the 40-man roster.

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