San Diego Padres prospect Reiss Knehr comes from a university with a track record of broken dreams and instability in the draft. A product of Fordham University, only one of the 37 total draft picks across the years has ever panned out, and that was right-hander Pete Harnisch, who compiled a 17.9 WAR over a 14-year career.
In his three years at Fordham, with a season at the Cape Cod League mixed in, Knehr notched a 2.93 ERA in 46 games with 28 starts. He fell just short of 200 total innings and finished with a career 9.8 K/9. Knehr was a 20th round pick and signed for $80,000 — a steal at a price for a guy who produced at the collegiate level.
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Knehr has been all over the map since joining the Padres. In his first stop at rookie ball in the Arizona Summer League, Knehr compiled a 2.84 ERA in 12 appearances. The most impressive of the sample size was his strikeout numbers — 25 strikeouts across 19 innings. Knehr added to the nice line with a 1.05 WHIP and walked only eight batters out of 80 he faced and only three wild pitches.
He then was promoted to Class-A Fort Wayne. The Tincaps are the new High-A Padres representative. His minute eight-game sample size included one start. Playing with competition averaging a year older than him, Knehr held his own to the tune of a 4.02 ERA.
In 2019, Knehr spent time at Lake Elsinore — formerly the High-A affiliate and now the Low-A affiliate. Regardless, Knehr struggled to keep his head above water. His ERA inflated to a gaudy 5.43, and he saw both his FIP and xFIP continue to blow up.
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In two minor league seasons, Knehr has compiled a 4.72 ERA. It may sting to see these numbers and believe Knehr is a top twenty prospect, however one central area of improvement and growth comes with the much-improved strikeout rate at each level.
As it were, the strikeout rate dipped a bit — most likely due to competition — but Knehr still finds himself at an incredibly high-efficiency rate. Across his minor league seasons, it has been a bounce between 27.9 and 31.3 percent. Improved bats and fewer swings-and-misses will hamper production, but exceptional players figure ways to stay consistent.
Sliding into the number 16 slot on the Padres big board of prospects, Knehr has improved in areas surrounding his pitching. For instance, his fastball, his go-to pitch, moved from the low-90s to an upward trajectory of sitting between 93 and 96 MPH.
To add to his mix, a low-80s slider has emerged as a pitch to 84-87 MPH with bite and a changeup which could become his second pitch quickly as it sits in the upper-80s.
Per his scouting report, he is athletic with a robust and sturdy frame and a quick arm. There could be a possibility he sniffs Double-A Amarillo. However, the likelihood is that Knehr will open at Lake Elsinore.
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There, he can work on his control and continue racking up the big strikeout numbers that so far have been a strength to his game. Like many across the game and those at lower levels, this upcoming season will be as crucial as ever for Knehr. Let’s hope he can continue trending in the right direction.