Profling the Toronto Blue Jays’ 2010 3rd round draftee (and Canadian!) Marcus Knecht.
Selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the third round (113th overall) of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Connors State Junior College, Marcus Knecht (pronounced Connect)has experienced success in his brief professional career. Named the top power hitter in the organization by Baseball America in 2010, Knecht made the Midwest League’s mid-season all-star team in only his first full season of professional ball. Knecht’s journey from playing high-school ball at St. Michael’s College School in Toronto to being drafted by his hometown Blue Jays has been an interesting one.
Having lettered all 4 years at St. Michael’s College School as well as playing for Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships, Knecht caught the eye of the Milwauke Brewers. Though originally eligible for the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, Knecht withdrew his name.
“I wasn’t mentally ready, I wanted to try school,” Knecht says.
Still, Milwaukee selected Marcus Knecht in the 23rd round after making Brett Lawrie of Langley B.C. their first-round selection. Knecht knew Lawrie from playing for the Junior National Team together and the Brewers hoped that Lawrie might be able to influence Knecht.
“We got Lawrie, maybe his teammate will talk him into playing,” then-scouting director Jack Zduriencik said.
Despite Lawrie’s influence, Marcus Knecht was recruited by Oklahoma State University and enrolled for the 2008-2009 season to play for the Cowboys.
Like many Canadian collegiate ballplayers before him, Knecht found out that US college ball wasn’t exactly what he expected. In the ’09 Cowboys spring season, the right-handed hitter was given just 12 at-bats.
As Knecht told the Toronto Sun’s Bob Elliott:
“The coaches didn’t explain anything about playing time,” Knecht said.
“I was disappointed because I’ve never been in that situation,” Knecht admitted. “The guys I played with and (who) played in front of me were 21-year-old juniors ready to get drafted. I wasn’t ready to be sat on the bench, but I learned a lot from it. After the season I made the decision to just take the next step and be proactive about getting to where I am right now.”
“I didn’t want to go through that again,” said Knecht of his season of inactivity. So, he called former coach Danny Bleiwas of the Ontario Blue Jays for advice.
“I trusted Danny,” he said.
Bleiwas suggested Knecht transfer to Connors State College.
“It worked out well,” said Knecht, who hit .453 with 23 homers, 20 steals and a .540 on-base percentage. Knecht’s transfer to Connors State College got him the necessary at-bats to increase his profile, so much so that he was selected in the third round (supplemental) of the 2010 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays, having been scouted personally by Blue Jays’ scouting director Andrew Tinnish.
Before the draft, Baseball America had this to say about Knecht:
Knecht’s 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame generates plenty of bat speed and raw righthanded power. He ranked among the national juco leaders in hitting (.453) and homers (21), though he struggled at times to make consistent contact against good velocity. Knecht is more than just a slugger. He ran a 6.55-second 60-yard dash during Connors State’s scout day in the fall, and he earns solid 55 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale for his speed and his accurate arm. He lacks the instincts for center field and played left for the Cowboys this spring, and it’s possible he could play right field as a pro.
Marcus was signed for $250,000 days after being drafted and was immediately assigned to short-season Auburn. Between college seasons, Knecht played for the Oshawa Dodgers of the Intercounty Baseball League. Though the landscape is littered with players who’s IBL success didn’t translate into success playing in affiliated ball (Ryan Spataro, Jonathan Baksh, Jamaal Joseph, Sean Reilly, Drew Taylor and Angus Roy), Knecht was able to make a seamless transition to Auburn where he hit 5 homeruns while batting .268 in 61 games. He played so well at Auburn and at spring training that he was promoted to single-A Lansing.
“The pitchers here throw more pitches for strikes (than at Auburn in 2010),” Knecht said. “I stay with my same approach and leg kick (about half of Jose Bautista’s).”
The infamous “anonymous scout” remarked that “(Knecht) is a hard-nosed kid, a grinder. He might be the best hitter (on the Lansing Lugnuts).” To be sure, Knecht’s numbers at Lansing have been impressive thus far:
Although Knecht exhibits a good eye - as evidenced by his .379 OBP (an impressive 100 points higher than his batting average) – like most young players he needs to work on his plate discipline. Knecht strikes out in approximately 25% of his at bats. Although possessing good speed in college, it seems as though his running game has stalled to the point of disappearing. At this point he has to be considered a 4-tool player. In addition, Marcus has exhibited a plus arm in leftfield, having racked up 6 outfield assists.
Two months into the season, Baseball Prospectus had this to say about Knecht:
“(Marcus Knecht) offers plenty of tools and bat speed; a .339/.418/.556 line in 47 games bears keeping an eye on…. the 20-year-old sleeper has good hitting skills and some raw power”
To say Knecht was excited to be drafted by his hometown team would be an understatement:
“I can’t put it into words,” Knecht said on a conference call. “It’s everything I could have hoped for. It’s a perfect way to start my pro career, with my favourite team.”
He said he has followed the Jays since his mother let him stay up until the wee hours to watch Toronto play in the World Series back in the early 1990s.
“I stayed up until about 12:30 when I was three years old,” Knecht said on a conference call. “I’ve been a fan ever since, my whole life.”
Knecht admitted that despite the bumpy road he has travelled so far, there was no place he would rather be … than working for the organization he grew up loving as a fan:
“It was huge (being drafted by the Jays),” he said. “I’ve been watching them my whole life. I’m just naturally a fan, so it’s kind of unbelievable that I ended up getting drafted by my favourite team. I’ve got to understand that I’m not in control of a lot of things. When I reach this point in my career, all I can do is play, and when I play well, if I play for other coaches they see me and they make decisions and I get sent up. I’ve got no timetable, nothing. Just play hard and move up.”
Should Marcus keep up his pace, I expect him to be promoted to the high-A level Dunedin Blue Jays for the start of the 2012 season. The pitching-rich Florida State League, in which the Dunedin Blue Jays play, will be a true test of Knecht’s offensive abilities. Already a 4-tool talent, Knecht has those attributes that “can’t be taught,” such as good judgement of the strike zone. Should he make it through the FSL gauntlet, who knows? Perhaps he will one day find success at the major-league level like his fellow IBL-alumnus and Canadian John Axford. What a storybook ending that would be; to play major league baseball for his hometown team along with former Team Canada teammate Brett Lawrie. This is a story that bears watching as it unfolds.
Marcus Knecht Grand-Slam
Marcus Knecht takes batting practice (courtesy of Toronto Blue Jays Farm Report)
Marcus Knecht hits a home run for Connors State College
Marcus Knecht hits a Grand-Slam home run at the 2008 World Junior Championships