Corey Knebel throws 97-mph off a funky windup. It’s an effective combination. In 31 games for low-A West Michigan last year, the 22-year-old Detroit Tigers prospect logged a 0.87 ERA, 0.774 WHIP and 11.9 K/9. Working as a closer, he saved 15 games. The righthander was drafted 39th overall last summer out of the University of Texas.
Knebel talked about his unique delivery, and what drives him to succeed, at the conclusion of the Arizona Fall League season.
Knebel on his first professional season and his approach: “I feel like I had a pretty good first season. I basically went in there thinking, ‘Hey, you know what? I got this guy.’ Whatever the catcher called, I was going to put it right there. For me, that’s a fastball or curveball, in or out.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say velocity is a big thing for me. I guess I do throw in the mid-90s, but I need to make sure I locate. It’s harder to hit a 91-mph fastball low and away than it is a 95-96 fastball right down the middle. I throw mostly four-seamers. I don’t really get any movement, so I try to work down in the zone.”
On working with West Michigan pitching coach Mike Henneman: “We talked about going in there and, no matter what, pretending it was the biggest game of my life. That and throwing strikes. As long as you’re throwing strikes, even if they’re hitting the ball you’re doing your job. His key thing was to not walk anybody, don’t throw balls.
“He was a great coach. He talked to me about expectations and said to not let anything get to my head. He told me, ‘Hey, someone is watching you all the time, so make sure you‘re doing your job all the time.’’
On his mound demeanor and delivery: “I’m an adrenaline guy. I’m not used to calm too much. I wouldn’t say I try to intimidate guys, or anything like that. Mostly hitters just see me and think, ‘Hey, this guy has a funky windup; he throws weird.’ I think my windup throws them off as much as anything.
“My delivery is kind of herky-jerky. I don’t have a normal windup. I guess you could say it looks like it’s going to come out and be 120 [mph], but it’s not.
“My coaches don’t really talk to me about it. They just say to make sure everything is going good after the delivery, that I finish good and not against my body. They want me to make sure I’m staying level and using my legs. As long as all of that is in sync, there shouldn’t be a problem. My delivery doesn’t look good, but it’s cleaner than it looks.”
On what motivates him: “As I’ve said in other interviews, it’s my brother and my family — them always being on the low end of everything. They took care of me for all my baseball stuff, and now I’m able to take care of myself, and take care of them. That one of the things that motivates me. Now they need me. I’ve always got them.”
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