Knack, the flame-throwing right-handed pitcher from East Tennessee State, says he’s been in contact with just about every team.
Even with the draft being cut to five rounds, the Johnson City native is expected to go thanks to a combination of factors. His magical right arm has been throwing in the mid-90s, reaching as high as 98 mph during the college season.
In addition, the start to his senior year was about as spectacular as they come. In six games, Knack was 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA, struck out a school-record 16 Ohio batters in his final game and finished with 51 strikeouts and one measly walk.
Then when the NCAA pulled the plug on spring sports, Knack was in limbo. Making matters worse was that the draft was shortened and none of the teams has been able to see him pitch in months.
The draft is set for June 10-11 and Knack is in full “wait-and-see” mode.
With only five rounds, how confident are you that you’ll get drafted?
“I feel pretty good about it. I’m pretty confident. All the feedback I’ve gotten from teams, they think I’ll go. Most people kind of say like second to fourth (round) is like the big consensus at this point. Obviously we’ll see. I mean, I could go fifth round. You never know. But I’m very confident about it. I feel good.”
I know you said you’ve heard from a lot of teams, but are you getting any stronger indications as it gets closer to draft time which it might be?
“I’ve talked to about every team. I get a Zoom call with somebody about every day at this point, just to talk to people. I don’t know if there’s a true team that really stands out. A lot of teams showed very similar interest, so I wouldn’t say there’s anybody right now that I think is like, ‘That’s who’s going to pick me.’ We’re just kind of waiting and seeing what happens.”
Are there one or two teams you would like to go to and who you’d like to play for?
“Whoever ends up taking me, I’ll be excited to get going. Honestly, I just want to play.”
If you don’t get drafted, teams can offer up to a $20,000 signing bonus. Will you consider returning to ETSU for that extra year of eligibility the NCAA has granted?
“At this point, if I go undrafted there’s kind of a couple more questions that come up, question marks on exactly what I’m going to do. We’ll kind of just see when we get there.”
Have you been able to throw with a radar gun lately?
“Yeah, I’m in Nashville right now, actually, at my adviser’s facility. Down here working out.”
Well, what are you pumping your fastball at these days?
“I’m still running up to that sixes, to 96 and stuff. We’re pretty close to where we left off.”
How has the coronavirus pandemic and everything being shut down affected your workouts?
“It was tough for a while to get some good workouts in. I found a friend that lives nearby that I went and lifted in their garage with just some weights that they had. I’ve been throwing bullpens in my backyard for about a month. It’s been kind of tough to really get quality work in, which is why I was so excited to be able to come to Nashville. I was very excited to get down here and actually get some better workouts and have better equipment, have the technology to be able to see what I’m doing and what I need to work on.”
When was the last time you faced a batter? Have you had anybody standing by the plate so you can brush them back a little bit or anything like that or are you just throwing to a catcher?
“When I was in the backyard, all I had was a net to throw into, but yeah we’ve just been throwing to catchers. I haven’t got to face any hitters for a while, unfortunately, so hopefully we get to do that sometime soon. I would love to have a batter in there.”
Where are you going to be when the draft is held?
“In Johnson City. I’ll be at home with the family.”
Will you have a draft party? Are you that confident?
“My parents want to do something with that. They want to have a little draft party, just like a couple of people who live around here. They want to have something small. I don’t know. We may or may not. I feel confident for it, but we’ll kind of see.”
What will it feel like if and when you do see your name up on the draft board?
“Pure excitement, man. I mean, considering last year in the draft I just sat there and watched the whole thing go by, to be able to hear that name called, it’ll be a very exciting experience. I’ll just be extremely happy.”
You watched the entire draft last year hoping to see your name?
“Yeah, I was hoping to get drafted last year. I thought I had done enough going into last year’s draft to hopefully get a nod. I sat there the whole time. I was looking at the draft, watched the entire thing.”
Were you the most disappointed guy in baseball last year?
“Oh yeah, I was for sure. But I honestly think last year helped me a lot this year and it was probably the best thing to happen to me for sure, getting that little extra chip on my shoulder from that.”