The Detroit Tigers added Texas pitcher Corey Knebel to their outstanding pitching rotation, selecting the hard-throwing right-hander with the 39th overall pick in the Competitive Balance Round A of the 2013 Major League Baseball Draft.
The 6-4, 250 pound closer out of Georgetown, Texas led the way for Texas with nine saves this season with a 3-4 record and 3.38 ERA. In 40 innings, Knebel allowed 25 hits and 15 earned runs with 18 walks and 51 strikeouts. It's easy to see why the Tigers chose Knebel, whose 37 career saves ranks second all-time in Texas Baseball history, only 5 behind Longhorn legend Huston Street.
While Knebel found his groove as a closer in the Texas rotation, Tigers vice president of amateur scouting David Chadd told the Detroit Free Press that Knebel will begin as a starter, cutting his teeth with the Connecticut Tigers in the New York-Penn League.
“He has three pitches. Obviously, two plus power pitches now,” Chadd said. “He has a delivery and an arm action for us to start. I think he was put in that closer’s role at the University of Texas, in my opinion, because he was a dominant closer and had success doing it. But we’re going to send Corey out as a starter.”
Chadd and the Tigers were impressed by Knebel's arsenal of pitches, including a fastball that clocks in the mid 90s. Chadd explained, "In essence, he does have four pitches. We saw the two power pitches, and that’s all he really needed to get outs at the college level.” The Tigers will push Knebel to work in a change-up and slider.
The Tigers also selected Florida right-handed junior pitcher Jonathon Crawford and Vanderbilt left-handed pitcher Kevin Ziomek with the 20th and 58th overall picks.
Knebel might find a challenge breaking into a Tigers starting rotation that boasts aces like Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, but his ability to pitch as a starter or closer, along with a nasty selection of pitches in his bag, should provide him with enough tools and flexibility needed to make a quick progression through the minor leagues on his way to the pros. For now, Knebel can bask in the joy that comes from one of the best organizations in Major League Baseball picking him. He proved his merit against the top programs in college and now he gets his chance to do it in the big leagues.