The latest installment in our 2016 outlook features RHP Corey Knebel, who was acquired by the Brewers from the Rangers. Knebel’s rookie campaign featured a 3.25 ERA through August, but it was in September he really started to show promise when his strikeout rate went up and he increased his contract rate as well. A good portion of the fanbase has touted Will Smith as the lock-in for the closer role if Smith struggles Knebel could step in and take over the job.
Knebel posted a 3.22 ERA in 50.1 IP over 48 games while pitching for the Brewers striking out 58 while giving up 8 HRs. In September Knebel gained better control of his curveball and as a result, his strikeouts and ground ball contract rate went up, showing that there is still plenty of potential for him to become an elite relief pitcher. He certainly didn’t have the best 2015, but as the season progressed Knebel came on stronger as a pitcher.
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Fangraphs Steamer has Knebel posting a 3.30 ERA in 45 IP over 45 games next season while fanning 53 and giving up 4 HRs along with a WAR of 0.5. Those projected numbers are right around where he finished last season and given that’s only 24 and spent most of his career in the Minors for the Tigers and the Rangers, I’m not surprised by the numbers. Corey Knebel still has plenty of room for growth and by no means has he missed the bus for being a solid (or even elite) relief pitcher. Will Smith, according to many, is the obvious choice to be the closer for the Brewers, however, I think that if he struggles early on the Brewers will give Knebel the nod and he could show he belongs there. Alternatively, he could be given the nod right away as Smith seems better suited to be a setup man as that’s where he has been dominant in past years.