Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Kibler is the second Michigan State Spartan pitcher to join the Tiger organization in as many seasons, following right-hander Jeff Gerbe in 2006. As a junior at Michigan State, Jon saw action in 12 games (11 starts), totaling 66-1/3 innings of work. He notched a 4.34/1.55 line at MSU while going 5-5 for a mediocre Spartan team.
Following his junior season and the draft, the Tigers followed his progress with Weatherford of the Texas Collegiate League, and his dominating performance over five starts was enough to convince the Tigers to go after him full force. Kibler managed a 5-0 record for the Weatherford, and posted a 1.36/0.91 line in 33 innings of action; leading to his being named to the All-League squad at the season's conclusion.
Prior to MSU, Jon spent his freshman season at Western Carolina, splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen. In 17 appearances (eight starts), Kibler went 0-3 with a 5.53 ERA. Jon transferred to Dundalk Community College (MD) for his second collegiate season, and turned in the best performance of his amateur career. He managed an 11-2 record in 14 games, and garnered 1st Team All-Region, Regional All-Tournament, Maryland Junior College All-Conference Team, and NJCAA 3rd Team Division II All-American honors.
As a high school standout, Kibler earned All-Metro honors in Maryland, and played in the Maryland High School All-Star Game while earning two varsity letters. He also lettered as a lineman in football, taking home All-Conference honors.
After turning pro, Kibler excelled with both the GCL and Oneonta Tigers. In seven appearances against GCL opponents, Jon posted a 2.43 ERA in nearly thirty innings, while walking only three batters. A late season promotion to Oneonta yielded similar results as he notched a 2.38 ERA in two starts, striking out eleven in 11-1/3 innings of work.
Kibler was a completely different pitcher during the summer than during the spring at Michigan State. While his fastball sat at 84-86 during the spring, he was routinely pumping fastballs in the 90-92 range with Weatherford during the summer. His fastball remained in that range after signing with the Tigers, and his command also showed impressive improvement. He uses his large frame to his advantage, generating an excellent downward plane on his fastball, giving the illusion of harder stuff than he actually has.
Kibler's curveball has showed promise in the past, but looked more like a potential above-average pitch by the time he turned pro. He just needs to gain consistency with his ability to throw strikes with the pitch for it to become a reliable second offering. His change-up also showed progress this season, as he demonstrated increased feel for the pitch, and better arm speed. Both his curve and change must be further developed before any real determinations can be made about his ability to stay in the rotation long term.
He is a smart pitcher with a fine knowledge of how to mix his pitches and locations. He has a strong competitive streak on the mound, and good presence during all games situations. His work ethic had been questioned by some in the past, but those concerns have evaporated over the last two years.
Right now, Jon profiles as a solid lefty prospect with the potential to become a 4/5 starter down the road. If his curve and change don't progress, he could be relegated to a specialist role in the bullpen.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG R
There were some concerns over Jon's health after his velocity dipped while at Michigan State last spring, but his summer performance with Weatherford and in the minors for Detroit have alleviated most of those thoughts. He has an excellent frame with good work habits, giving him some extra hope of staying healthy over the long haul. The Tigers will likely be careful with his workload over the next two years, as the 130-plus innings he logged in 2007 are by far the most of his young pitching career.
Kibler made enormous strides in a very short amount of time in 2007, and he will have to demonstrate that he can maintain his new found velocity and overall success heading into 2008. If he comes into minor league spring training on the same roll he ended the '07 season, there is little reason to believe he won't be starting in the West Michigan rotation in April.
His path through the organization will be dictated by his ability to adjust and master each level. He doesn't project as a player ready to be fast-tracked through the organization, though the Tigers have demonstrated more of a willingness to advance players who are dominating their competition. Expect Kibler to move one level at a time, starting with West Michigan in 2008.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.