COREY KNEBEL (RHP)
Profile: Looking to shore up their bullpen the Brewers promoted the 23-year-old Knebel to Milwaukee on Monday, optioning second baseman Scooter Gennett to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Acquired from Texas in January in a deal that sent starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo to the Rangers, Knebel was a first round pick by the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 draft, following three successful season at the University of Texas.
Knebel made 31 relief appearances for West Michigan in the Midwest League following his signing, and was dominant, going 2-1 with an 0.87 earned run average while recording 15 saves. He struck out 41 batters in 31 innings of work and allowed just ten walks and three earned runs.
After pitching in the Arizona Fall League following the 2013 season, the Tigers jumped Knebel over High-A Lakeland and sent him to Double-A Erie to begin 2014. He enjoyed similar success at Double-A, going 3-0 with a 1.20 ERA in 11 games, and earned another promotion, this time to Triple-A. Knebel worked four scoreless frames over three outings and in late May, made his Major League debut with the Tigers. He pitched in eight games for Detroit, allowing six runs while striking out eleven in 8 2/3 innings.
Detroit dealt Knebel to Texas in late July along with Jake Thompson in exchange for veteran pitcher Joakim Soria and he appeared in nine games for the Round Rock Express, the Rangers Triple-A affiliate, before being shut down for the season with an elbow injury. Healthy again in 2015, Knebel was traded for a second time, along with Luis Sardiñas and Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee and he began the season at Triple-A Colorado Springs. In 16 appearances for the Sky Sox, Knebel recorded six saves and struck out 22 batters in 15 1/3 innings of work.
Strengths: Knebel has two plus pitches, a mid 90’s fastball with movement that has been clocked as high as 98 miles per hour, and a sharp breaking curveball that could be his best pitch. He also can mix in an above average changeup as a third pitch. Knebel is a strike thrower who hides the ball well and doesn’t walk many batters. He has closing experience and racks up the punchouts, averaging 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings
Weaknesses: Knebel’s delivery has a lot of effort and has already resulted in one injury in his young career, causing concern about the toll it could take on his arm long-term. His 4.70 ERA at Colorado Springs this season is the highest of his minor league career, but even that should be taken with a grain of salt given the hitters environment that is Colorado Springs.
Future: Starts like Matt Garza’s disaster on Saturday night can kill a bullpen and Knebel’s addition will provide the Brewers with another right-handed arm to use in the latter innings of games. He’s an exciting young addition to the pen and in a best case scenario could eventually become the Brewers closer in future seasons. At the very least he’s a valuable late-game contributor under team control through 2021 who could take on a more prominent role if/when Milwaukee starts moving players.