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2020 MLB Draft

2020 MLB Draft Profile: Landon Knack, RHP, East Tennessee State

POSITION: RHP
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6’2″/225
THROWS/BATS: Right/Right
COLLEGE: East Tennessee State
HS: Johnson City (TN)

Background
Landon Knack is one of only a few college seniors who can call themselves top-draft prospects. At the date of the draft, he will be nearly 23 years old and is likely to be the oldest prospect drafted this year. Knack’s journey began at Walters State Community College (WSCC). At WSCC, Knack was used as a two-way player. Knack hardly played in his freshman year but posted great numbers as a sophomore in 2018. In 2018, he played in 52 games as a hitter and put up the following stats: .343/.421/.778.

Knack also had strong pitching numbers. In 92.2 innings, he put up these numbers: 3.01 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 1.26 BB/9, and a 10.88 K/9. After his sophomore year at WSCC, he transferred to East Tennessee State and started just focusing on pitching.

In an interview with Patrick Ebert of Perfect Game, Knack details the process he underwent upon transferring to play for the Buccaneers:

“Getting to focus on pitching and really focusing on trying to throw harder and really trying to use my legs. They worked with me on trying to throw with intent. Throwing with intent helped me creep to 90 and then talking about using your body right and getting yourself in shape. I had to work really hard in the weight room and with my diet to get my body right. So body composition came into play, using my body correctly.”

This focus seemed to pay off, as he started to improve on the mound. In his first year at East Tennessee State, he pitched 97 innings and put up the following stats: 2.60 ERA, 1.093 WHIP, 1.5 BB/9, and an 8.7 K/9.

Despite his strong season, Knack was not selected in the 2019 MLB draft. Remember, Knack was a community college, so 2019 was the 4th season that he was draft eligible.

This fact motivated Knack to continue to elevate his game. His reaction to not getting drafted is outlined in an interview he gave with Joe Avento of Johnson City Press. An excerpt from that article is posted below.

“After the draft happened and I didn’t get picked and I personally thought I could have been somebody that should have at least got a call, I kind of used that for motivation,” Knack said. “It pushed me to work hard. I spent the whole last year — my eating, lifting, throwing program went to another level.”

These changes led to a significant increase in Knack’s fastball velocity. His fastball is now able to reach 98 MPH and sits in the 93-95 MPH. Prior to this season, he was sitting in the low 90’s. When he first got to ETSU, he was maxing out at 89 MPH. He has shown increased velocity for over two years now with his biggest increase coming this season.

This increase in velocity has propelled him from a four-time non-drafted prospect into one of the top 150 draft prospects. His added velocity, combined with his already excellent control led him to dominate during the 2020 season.

In 25 innings he put up the following numbers: 1.08 ERA, 18.4 K/9, .520 WHIP, .4 BB/9. His 51 strikeouts were the most for any Division 1 starter and he only threw one walk all season. To put that into perspective, Tanner Hall had the second-most strikeouts in the conference, and Hall only had 37 strikeouts.

In addition to leading the league in K’s he also had following statistical achievements: 4th lowest WHIP, 8th best BB/9, 42nd in H/9 (4.32), and 59th in ERA.

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Below is a video of Knack pitching, via Rob Friedman AKA @Pitchingninja.

Overview
Knack has been ranked as the 111th best prospect by FanGraphs, the 113th by MLB.com, and the 113th by Baseball America (subscription required).

Knack is slated to go in rounds 3-5 and might be available for the Yankees in the 3rd round. I personally think it is a great pick for the club. He seems like a safe pick because at worst, he has the makings of a good relief prospect. Additionally, Knack might make sense for the club due to him being a college senior. This will give him less leverage and will potentially make him a cheap signing. That’s good for the Yankees as they do not have a large bonus pool.

He’s only been focusing solely on pitching for two years and has made great strides. I think he some more untapped potential. People might point out his age and the fact that he’s a senior as negatives. But, he’s only a few months older than Bryce Jarvis, who is a junior and going in the 1st or 2nd round.

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