Position: Left-handed Pitcher
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.
The Tigers promoted Kibler to West Michigan for his first full-season trial, and they were rewarded with an outstanding season from the lefty. Kibler led the Midwest League in wins (14), ERA (1.75), and WHIP (0.87), while also ranking third in innings pitched and ninth in strikeouts. Not only did the Tigers notice his success by naming him the Organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year, but we here at TigsTown noticed as well, as he was either the winner or runner-up for the TigsTown West Michigan Pitcher of the Month award on four occasions in 2008. To cap off his fine season, TigsTown named him the West Michigan Pitcher of the Year.
While Kibler saw some gains in his fastball after leaving MSU after his junior year, those gains didn't really stick long term. While he still spent much of the 2008 season working at 88-89 mph with his fastball, that wasn't the 90-92 he worked at while with Weatherford in 2007. His fastball tends to play up with above-average command, and a good downward plane thanks to taking full advantage of his large frame and high arm angle.
Both Kibler's change-up and curveball showed improvement prior to signing with the Tigers, and both held on to that progress during 2008. His curveball showed more consistent spin and bite late in the zone, and worked as largely an above-average pitch for much of the season. While his change-up has shown promise and flashed as an above-average offering, it more frequently works as a fringe-average pitch due to a slightly reduced arm speed and lack of movement on the pitch.
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 A
After some concerns early in his pitching career over the health of his arm, Kibler has proved that he has the ability to be a durable starter capable of eating innings at a high level. Kibler's frame screams a continuation of this trend, and after logging 150+ innings he could be prepared to approach 180 innings in 2009.
The Tigers have invited Kibler to Major League spring training, and while that is a nice honor for him as a young pitcher, the odds are strong against him making the Opening Day roster. He should see some time in early spring games and will head back to minor league camp with some valuable experience.
If he pitches well early in camp in front of many of the Tigers big wigs, he could get a chance to compete for a rotation slot in Double-A Erie to start his second full season. Even without a strong spring performance, Kibler is a near lock to start the year in Lakeland, and he could still see Erie by the end of the 2009 campaign. Kibler has a chance to become a solid innings-eater type, and he could figure in some Major League plans come late in the 2010 season.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.