Former Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Corey Knebel was making some headlines this postseason as the Dodgers, who had a number of starters on the IL in the postseason, were having Knebel make “starts” for them as an opener during the postseason. He had mixed results with that but he was still one of their best relievers. His experience and success could be exactly what the Colorado Rockies are looking for in their bullpen.
Thomas Harding of MLB.com cited Knebel as a guy that the Colorado Rockies could be looking into to help their bullpen in 2022 so let’s examine the pros and cons for Knebel and the Rockies.
The Colorado Rockies are interested in former Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel. But should they be?
Corey Knebel, who turns 30 later this week, was great for the Los Angeles Dodgers but he has a spotty track record, which may be a turnoff for the Colorado Rockies.
In 2021, Knebel appeared in eight games for the Dodgers in April before he suffered a lat strain. He was out from April 24 all the way until August 10. Knebel was great after he returned (19 games, 1.83 ERA, 3.27 FIP) but he has an injury history that precedes 2021.
In 2019, he had to have Tommy John surgery which cost him the entire 2019 season and most of 2020. In 2020, he was not good as, in 15 games, he had an ERA of 6.08.
In 2018, he missed more than a month due to a hamstring injury. He was good in 2018 (3.57 ERA, 3.03 FIP in 57 games) but not as good as he was in 2017, when he had a 1.78 ERA (2.48 FIP) in an NL-leading 78 appearances. He was an All-Star in 2017 as well.
As Rockies fans know, some players tend to have more injuries when going between altitude and sea level. Is that an issue that Knebel will have?
Also, one thing that the Rockies have to look at with him is his groundball rate. Knebel does have a good strikeout rate (10.5 K/9 in 2021) and it was even better before he had Tommy John surgery (he averaged 14.7 K/9 in 2018 and 2019) but the groundball rate has been spotty.
In 2021, his groundball percentage was 45.2 percent. For comparison, in 2021, of the Rockies five main starters (Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, Antonio Senzatela, and Austin Gomber), Gomber had the lowest groundball rate of 43.2 percent and Márquez’s was highest at 51.3 percent).
For Knebel, his groundball rates from 2020 back to 2017 have been 33.3, 49.5, and 39.0.
That’s not a dealbreaker but the pitchers with higher groundball rates tend to do better at Coors Field. For example, Colorado Rockies reliever Robert Stephenson had a groundball rate of 37.6 and he had a home ERA of 4.13. His road ERA was 2.05. On the other hand, Lucas Gilbreath had a groundball rate of 45.3 percent and at Coors Field, he had an ERA of 2.42. On the road, it ballooned up to 4.43.
Knebel also has a big curveball and curveballs tend to be flatter at elevation, which could be a drawback.
Corey Knebel is #38 on MLBTR’s free agent list and they predict he’ll get a two-year deal for $18 million. Knebel can be great but considering his health issues and other spottiness issues, the Colorado Rockies may look elsewhere on the free agent market or in trades for relief help.