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  • Brewers Spotlight: LHP Brandon Knarr (Part 1)


    Seth Stohs

    Left-handed pitcher Brandon Knarr pitched very well in Wisconsin and Biloxi in 2022. Recently, he joined us for a three-part Brewers Spotlight. In Part 1 today, we hear about growing up in Pennsylvania, learning a pitch from a Hall of Famer, his hitting ability, spending a season at Notre Dame and a big year at the College of Central Florida. 

    Image courtesy of Steve Buhr, Twins Daily

    Brandon Knarr had a strong breakout season in 2022, split between the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Biloxi Shuckers. He’s got a terrific mix of pitches. In fact, he actually learned how to grip one pitch from a Hall of Famer. 

    Growing up in York, Pennsylvania, just about two hours from Philadelphia, a young Brandon Knarr attended Phillies Phestival with his family. The Phillies won a World Series championship during his formative years. It had to be a fun team for a pre-teen baseball fan to follow.

    At the event, fans had the opportunity to go through lines and take pictures with players. Knarr was walking through the line to get a photo with Roy Halladay

    “My dad ushered me along. During the photo ops, you’re not supposed to take a baseball or anything in. They don’t want you to sign anything. So, I’m going up for my photo, and my dad hands me a baseball and says, ‘Hey, ask him how he throws his sinker.’ So I got through the line, and I asked him - I was so nervous - I’ll never forget. He placed my fingers on the ball, exactly how he throws it. The really funny part was that he showed me on my right hand. I was too nervous to tell him I am a lefty.” 

    At Eastern York High School in eastern Pennsylvania, Brandon Knarr played his high school ball in a ballpark with an incredible mountain view and the Susquehanna River in the backdrop. It was a smaller school, but especially Knarr’s sophomore and junior seasons, they were talented enough to compete with the large schools with much bigger talent pools. 

    Knarr was a solid high school hitter, but he is also self-aware enough to know that pitching was where his future was in baseball. “I was a cage all-star.” 

    The southpaw played in several Perfect Game tournaments, Prep Baseball Report events, and other regional and national events. “I was playing all over, up and down the East Coast.” 

    Out of high school, he attended Notre Dame for one season. He then transferred to the College of Central Florida, one of the best junior college baseball programs in the country, under the tutelage of legendary coach Marty Smith. His assistants included his son Ryan Smith (now the Triple-A hitting coach with the Twins) and Zach Bove (now the assistant minor-league pitching coordinator with the Twins). When Bove left midseason to join the Twins, Brett Merritt became the pitching coach. Following the season, he joined the Red Sox organization. 

    “That team and staff and everything there was like the perfect storm to walk into. I feel very fortunate that I was able to go there when I did.”  

    The staff was just starting to use Rapsodo, and digging into training and development methods. All of that was intriguing to Knarr, and he knew that it would be a good place for him to get better. 

    “From whenever we woke up to whenever we went to bed, there were guys at the field doing something. On any random day, you’d find guys in the cage at eight or nine o’clock at night. It was just a really incredible environment.”

    The team lost their first game of the season and then went on a school-record winning streak that moved them from unranked to #1 in the country.  

    Listen to Part 1 of our Brewers Spotlight with lefty Brandon Knarr. Later in the week, we’ll discuss his 2020 season at a D2 powerhouse, the shortened draft, and deciding to sign with the Brewers in Part 2. And in Part 3, you can hear him discuss his pitches, his preparation for a game, what he does between starts, how he uses available technology and analytics, his offseason goals, and much more.

     

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    The next 5-6 years of Brewers baseball kinda hinges on the crop of prospects who pitched so well for the Timber Rattlers this season. With Woodruff and/or Burnes exiting within the next two years, a few guys from that pack of starters is going to need to step forward if the Brewers are to remain competitive. Ashby might be one of those guys but based on early returns, he's certainly still a question mark and either way, the Brewers need more than Peralta and Ashby to build a competitive rotation, particularly because it's really hard to see them having the money to go outside the organization to do it.

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    What was really great to watch in Knarrly's overall season was how he faced adversity and overcame it in Biloxi. It is not easy to pitch in the Southern League - at all. He came aboard initially and was phenomenal. He faced adversity after his final 3 starts in July and into early August. Something clicked, some adjustments were made (?), an approach changed (?), after facing the Braves on the road in early August. 

    Personally, I'd love to hear about this particular stretch of games and what he did to close out the season so strongly. He was striking out batters incredibly well in July but the walks went up into August and his WHIP had jumped to 1.42. In the three games I watched in September he slashed that way back to a very respectable 1.19 WHIP. Anyhow, 2023 is another big year for a young Brewers hurler and this will absolutely be true for Mr. Knarr.

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