Friday, June 12, 2020

Welcome to the Blue, Landon Knack!

The Dodgers first pick on the second day of the amateur draft, at 60th overall, is East Tennessee State right-handed hurler Landon Knack. From what I understand, he doesn't quite project as a starter in the big leagues. Rather, he is seen as more of a hard-throwing power relief pitcher. Of course, he could surprise and become a part of the rotation. As Dustin Nosler stated in his write-up, Knack "was a money-saving selection" -- who the Dodgers should be able to sign for under slot.

Landon Knack is 22-years old, stands at 6' 2" tall, and bats as a lefty. He had not been drafted previously. Knack is also the best fifth-year-college senior in a long time. Originally, he was a two-way player on the field, but suffered some shoulder injuries that forced him to focus on pitching only. After having done so, he experienced a velocity increase on the mound from between five to ten mph on his fastball.

Soon, he would become a beast. In the shortened 2020 college season his numbers looked like video game stats. In 25 inning pitched he struck out 51 batters and walked only one... ONE! Per a Dodgers press release:
Knack, 22, was selected 60th-overall in the draft after finishing his senior campaign with a 4-0 record and a 1.08 ERA (3 ER/25 IP) in four starts. In limited work this season, he fanned 51 batters against one walk, leading NCAA D-1 Baseball in strikeouts and strikeout-to-walk ratio (51.0). In two seasons with the Buccaneers, he went 13-4 with a 2.25 ERA (31 ER/124.0 IP) and 145 strikeouts in 19 starts. The Johnson City, TN native pitched two seasons at Walters State Community College prior to joining East Tennessee State University, going 13-1 with a 2.93 ERA (32 ER/98.7 IP) in 19 games (16 starts).
Here is a scouting report, per the MLB Pipeline:
FASTBALL -- 60; SLIDER -- 55; CURVEBALL -- 50; CHANGEUP -- 55; CONTROL -- 60; OVERALL -- 45.
The best fifth-year-senior prospect in years, Knack could go as early as the second or third round to a team looking to marry intriguing talent with a deep discount to create bonus pool wiggle room in a shortened Draft. He tore the labrum in his right (pitching) shoulder diving into a base and required surgery as a Tennessee high school senior in 2015 that led to him redshirting in his first year at Walters State (Tenn.) CC. He dislocated his left shoulder diving into a bag when he returned in 2017, costing him most of that year, before bouncing back to go 13-0 and hit 11 homers while leading the Senators to a runner-up finish at the 2018 Junior College World Series. Knack continued to win and pound the strike zone at East Tennessee State last spring but went undrafted for the fourth straight year, then took a dramatic leap forward in stuff and performance this spring. He won all four of his starts with a 1.08 ERA and led NCAA Division I in strikeouts (51 in 25 innings) and K-BB ratio (51-1). 
The quality of Knack's pitches improved somewhat when he gave up hitting in 2019, but he still operated with an 89-92 mph fastball and fringy secondary pitches. After a summer spent lifting weights and firming up his burly 6-foot-2 frame, he worked at 93-95 mph deep into games and touched 98 during the shortened season. He tightened his slider into a consistently solid offering, added power to what had been a get-me-over curveball and continued to demonstrate feel for his changeup. 
Knack doesn't have the prettiest body or delivery but has a long history of throwing strikes, averaging 1.3 walks per nine innings throughout his college career. The brother-in-law of Pirates 2016 first-rounder Will Craig, he presents a conundrum to teams because he turns 23 in July and his history of premium velocity lasts just four weeks. It's an unusual story for sure, but few pitchers in this Draft can match the stuff and command he showed this spring.
Landon Knack does have a twitter account: @lknackers. You can also watch him hear the draft announcement here, via ETSU Baseball on twitter:

Below are some notes, news and scouting reports related to Knack:
  • Landon Knacks biography page at ETSU here.
  • Per -- "Landon Knack Selected 60th Overall by Dodgers in 2020 MLB Draft."
“It’s an unreal feeling to hear my name called after watching the draft last year. I couldn’t be more excited to work with an organization that does so well with player development,” said Knack. “I want to thank my teammates, Coach Pennucci, Coach Posey, Coach Oeder, Coach Murray and Coach Sweeney for everything they’ve done for me the over the last two years. Go Dodgers!”
“Landon is a hard worker, dedicated and a fantastic teammate,” said Head Coach Joe Pennucci. “The fact that Landon is extremely coachable and is willing to make adjustments will take him a long way in this game. Our entire coaching staff is proud of him and excited for his future.”
Knack concluded the season with the most strikeouts in the nation and was on pace to set multiple program records on the mound. The ace was tabbed by the MLB Pipeline as having the best control in Division I as he threw 352 pitches in 2020 and 74% of them were strikes.
“It was as good of a start that I have witnessed in my coaching career,” said head coach Joe Pennucci. “Landon is a great example of if you are a hard worker, then it will pay off.”
“The biggest adjustment I saw in his development was his investment into making his body better,” said ETSU pitching coach, Micah Posey. “I give him credit; he made massive sacrifices in his life to elevate his game to the level it is at.”
“Every inning, it was like I was chasing strikeouts. Of the outs, I remember the two they put in play so well; they were both two-strike counts that they tapped off the end of the bat to the shortstop. It was probably the most locked-in and most fun I think I’ve had on the mound.”
Gasparino’s Take: “He’s always been an elite strike thrower. He’s a former position player that started pitching and was just naturally gifted at throwing strikes. We kind of identified that a little bit last year and then as the fall kind of started to unwind, Marty Lamb kind of flagged him as a guy who made a jump in velocity and stuff. We knew, all right, now you have strikes and pitchability and stuff improving and all of a sudden he comes out early in spring and it’s like the stuff not only improved, it improved by a large gap.”
“It’s an unreal feeling to hear my name called after watching the draft last year,” Knack said in a press release. “I couldn’t be more excited to work with an organization that does so well with player development.”

Video Link:
“I’d thought of myself as a hitter first up until that last year at Walters State,” Knack said. “That was when I realized what I had on the mound. After that year, I finished up I realized my future was pitching.”
What kind of scouting report would the 6-foot-2, 220-pound Knack give about himself? 
“I would describe myself as a competitor who knows how to pitch,” Knack said. “I’m a guy who wants to attack hitters from start to finish and make them earn it, but I have the command and pitch ability to get hitters out at a high rate.”
  • Rob Friedman shares some info on Ladon Knack on twitter:

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