Corey Knebel to Rangers: Latest Trade Details, Scouting Report and Reaction

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2014

Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Corey Knebel throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Detroit, Wednesday, June 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

With the Texas Rangers in the midst of a lost season, they have decided to trade closer Joakim Soria to the Detroit Tigers for a pair of prospects.

The Tigers were able to confirm the deal on Twitter:

Texas gives up a player who was set to be a free agent at the end of the year for two quality pitching prospects in Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel. This is basically as good as it gets for the Rangers nowadays, considering the squad has the worst record in baseball.

ESPN's Jim Bowden explains that this was a good return for Texas:

Jared Sandler of ESPN Radio Dallas agrees with the level of talent coming in on the deal:

On the other hand, Matthew B. Mowery of The Oakland Press explains that the upside is not great:

Despite this, it has to be a good feeling for Knebel as a local product, as noted by John Keating of Fox Sports Detroit:

Thompson has nice potential, but he is still at least a year or two from contributing in the majors. Knebel, however, is a safer prospect who already has the skill to be an impact player going forward.

The 22-year-old pitcher has spent time in the majors this season with the Tigers, but he has struggled to a 6.23 ERA in 8.2 innings. At least he can be satisfied in his 11 strikeouts with just three walks in this time, along with the fact that he has yet to allow a home run at this level.

His stats would be even better if he took away his first outing, which resulted in three earned runs in one inning. Knebel admitted to Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press that he had too much adrenaline at the time:

There was nothing I could really do. I couldn’t really control it at the time. 

It wasn’t the outing I would have hoped for. I got behind a lot of hitters. I had to make pitches. And they hit them. … I was pulling off my fastball, and my curveball was a little loopy.

Once he settled into his role for the Tigers, he looked much better. Still, he will continue to work on his game in Triple-A now that he is in the Rangers organization, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN Dallas:

The good news is that he has already been a star at this level, posting a 1.96 ERA in 18.1 innings with the Toledo Mud Hens. In two seasons, Knebel has totaled a 1.26 ERA in the minors across three leagues.

Before the start of the season, Baseball America ranked the right-hander as the No. 7 prospect in the Tigers system, thanks mostly to his elite curveball. Jonathan Mayo of notes that he can eventually become a closer in the majors in his scouting report:

The tall right-hander has an outstanding two-pitch power combination and that's all he needs. His fastball hits the mid-90s and he mixes in his biting downer curve that can be a true out pitch. Combine that with the kind of "give me the ball" attitude you want to see from a ninth-inning guy and Knebel has everything to continue closing all the way up to the Major League level.

The key for him going forward will be his command. He walked 4.6 batters per nine innings across two levels in the minors this season, which is something late-game pitchers cannot afford. You have to make hitters earn their spot on base with every run being important.

If he can throw strikes and keep confidence in his pitches, Knebel has the chance to be an impact player for the Rangers either this year or next.


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