A year ago Corey Knebel was finishing his season for the University of Texas and preparing for the 2013 draft. Fast forward to 2014 and he finds himself in the big leagues, recently promoted to the Detroit Tigers bullpen. Let's take a look at Knebel as Wednesday's Prospect of the Day.
Corey Knebel broke out as a freshman for the Longhorns in a big way in 2011, saving 19 games with a 1.13 ERA and a 61/12 K/BB in 56 innings, outstanding for anyone but particularly so for a guy who wasn't drafted out of high school. He followed up with a strong sophomore campaign in 2012 (2.08 ERA, nine saves, 68/20 K/BB in 74 innings), positioning himself for an early spot in the '13 draft.
His junior year had some ups and downs: he was suspended twice, once for violating "team rules" and a second time after providing a urine sample to a teammate. However, his makeup was generally well-regarded and these incidents did not count against him on draft day. Although he saw his ERA spike to 3.37, he saved nine more games, posted a 51/18 K/BB in 40 innings with only 25 hits, and was selected by the Tigers in the supplemental first round, 39th overall.
Knebel has been unstoppable in the minors, posting a 0.87 ERA with 15 saves and a 41/10 K/BB in 31 innings for Low-A West Michigan after signing last summer, followed by a 0.95 ERA with a 27/9 K/BB in 19 innings this year, 15 innings at Double-A Erie and four more at Triple-A Toledo. Overall he has a 0.90 ERA with a 69/19 K/BB in 50 professional innings, allowing a mere 24 hits.
Listed at 6-3, 190 pounds, Knebel was born November 26, 1991. He's been clocked as high as 98 MPH though works more commonly in the 92-96 range. His fastball has some hop to it and a deceptive delivery makes it difficult for hitters to pick up. He mixes the fastball with a power curve and he'll show an occasional solid changeup. His arsenal is diverse enough for him to start, but scouts prefer him in the bullpen since he has some effort in his mechanics.
Sabermetrically, Knebel's walk rate could use some reduction but his K/IP ratios and persistently miniscule batting-averages-against are very promising markers for his future. He should have a long career in major league bullpens and could close eventually if his command holds up.