Long-term closers have been hard to find in Milwaukee. While pitchers like John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez have had great seasons, finding a pitcher that can close for more than a year at a time has been very hard. With a little over a week before spring training begins, the Milwaukee Brewers again have plenty of options to close this year.
They could look outside the organization for arms like K-Rod, Rafael Soriano, or Jonathan Papelbon, or they could fill the spot internally with Jonathan Broxton or a healthy Jim Henderson. But whoever wins the job this season will almost certainly be just another stop gap as the Brewers have their answer for the future in Corey Knebel.
As one of the premium pieces in the Yovani Gallardo trade, Knebel can flat out deal. The former closer from the University of Texas has moved quickly through the minor leagues since being drafted in 2013 and with a solid spring he could find his way on the Brewers’ opening day roster.
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Like many closers, Knebel’s game is built on power and missing bats. With a mid-90’s fastball, he has all of the tools to overpower hitters on a daily basis. His deceptive delivery and sharp curveball makes him even harder to hit.
Last season in 45.1 minor league innings, he struck out 63 batters. He also keeps the ball in the park averaging just 0.6 home runs for every nine innings of work. Though his initial taste in the major leagues was a bit of a struggle, he was still able to strike out 11 batters in eight innings of work. This bodes well for his future as a late inning arm.
Having a dynamite arm like Knebel’s makes the future of the bullpen look bright in Milwaukee. Putting his arm to the mix of arms like Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith is a nightmare for opposing teams. Last season the Royals’ lockdown bullpen was able to play a major role in their postseason run and the Brewers have an arm in Knebel that can make them just as good. Many look at their bullpen as a weakness, but it won’t be long until they see it as a force.