Brody Koerner may not have been a big prospect in the 2015 draft, but so far, he’s pitching as if he were. Picked in the 17th round out of Clemson, Koerner has started 2016 strong with the Charleston RiverDogs. Strong enough to earn him a promotion to the Tampa Yankees, in the wake of the injury to James Kaprielian.
In three starts with the RiverDogs, Koerner has pitched 20 and 2/3 innings, striking out 21 and walking only three batters. His ERA checks in at 1.74.
Koerner’s success lies in constantly pounding the strike zone with a wide array of pitches. He features a mid-90s fastball, a hard sinker, curveball, slider and changeup.
“I just want to go out and throw strikes and I’m trying to stay in the zone, I want to be around 70% strikes, I think that’s a good number to have with all my pitches. That’s honestly the goal. Being a sinker ball guy, I want to get contact early, I want people to roll over stuff. That’s the plan, to pound the zone and go from there,” Koerner said.
How he chooses to mix those pitches up depends on how the opponents react to his pitches and how well he’s throwing pitches that day. “It just depends on what’s working that day. You just gotta make adjustments. There’s times where you read hitter’s swings and kind of see that didn’t see that very well or they saw this. And just watching video too to see what they did against other people and what the tendencies are in their swings. At the end of the day, you’re going to pitch to your strengths. If you can see small things that help you, you take advantage of them,” Koerner said.
The more he sees a hitter, the more of an advantage Koerner feels he has. “You start playing people again and again, you obviously have more video on them to see what their doing,” Koerner explained.
Koerner works constantly on his control when throwing between starts. “I work on it everyday, even in flat ground stuff playing catch, and with a couple out of the stretch and a couple out of the windup, keep that consistent release point and stay there,” Koerner said.
One of the areas Koerner feels he needs to work on is when runners are on base and keeping the ball down in the zone. “Out of the stretch, I’m working on holding the ball a little better and then staying back. Sometimes I get ahead of myself and rush, the ball flattens out and that’s not what I want being a sinker ball guy.”
Being on a strong pitching staff with Charleston has aided Koerner and also his teammates. “We’re pretty good about talking to each other and figuring things out. ‘Hey, I saw you do this.’ Even if it’s just something in playing catch. ‘Hey, you released it back here.’ Even if it’s just somethings like that helps and it goes a long way.”
The staff’s success creates an atmosphere of healthy competition. “I know after (Josh) Rogers went with his 7 and 2/3 against Columbia, I came up to him after I finished mine (7 and 2/3 innings performance) and told him we were tied.”
Moving up to Tampa, Koerner has fit well into a pitching staff that has been pretty successful in their own right. So far he has appeared in 1 game for the Yankees Florida State League affiliate, allowing just 1 run over 6 innings of work while striking out 4 batters in his High-A debut against the Dunedin Blue Jays.