For Marcus Knecht
, coming up through the Blue Jays' organization has been a dream come true. The Toronto native grew up rooting for the Blue Jays and idolizing stars such as Carlos Delgado, Roger Clemens, and his favorite player, Shawn Green. Naturally, getting the call in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft by his favorite team was a thrilling moment for the outfielder out of Connors State College.
"I was excited for sure," Knecht recalled. "I didn't really think I was going to be drafted by the Jays in particular. There were a couple other teams I felt were more interested in me, but when I got drafted by them I was really excited and I knew I was signing right away."
Knecht made a seamless transition from college ball to the minor leagues during his first two seasons of professional ball, as he excelled at short-Season Class-A Auburn in 2010 and then really took off at Class-A Lansing in 2011.
With Lansing, Knecht hit .273 while blasting 16 home runs and driving in 84 runs in 121 games, after which Baseball America touted him as the top power-hitting prospect in the Blue Jays organization.
Since joining High-A Dunedin in 2012, Knecht has boasted similarly impressive power, but has struggled to get on base, as he hit .210 in 126 games last season and is hitting .239 through 90 games this season. Additionally, Knecht's walk rate has declined from 12.7 percent at Lansing to 8.5 percent in just over one and a half seasons at Dunedin. The 23-year-old elaborated on what he feels is the biggest difference in competition at the two levels.
"I'd say [the biggest difference is] that the pitchers have one extra pitch. At Lansing, usually the stars would have two pitches that they throw for strikes – say a fastball and a curveball or a fastball and a changeup – but here [at Dunedin] there are a lot of guys that can throw three pitches for a strike. It's just that one extra pitch, that one extra difference in timing that makes the difference."
While Knecht admitted that this season has had its ups and downs, the tools are certainly there and hitting coach Stubby Clapp feels that the former third-round pick is close to putting it all together.
"He's got everything there physical and mentally," Clapp said. "He just needs to put everything together. If he can get his approach and his physical abilities on a consistent basis, he's going to be dangerous.
"He's got some of the fastest hands that I've ever seen. When he hits the ball and squares it up, the ball goes real well. He just needs to start being a little more consistent.
"There are numerous things and situations that happen throughout a day, throughout a game, throughout the week, that can cause a hitter to get sidetracked from their approach. He's done a better job of it compared to last year and now he needs to just stay strict to his approach and be consistent.
"It's real simple. He's got the physical tools and the abilities. It's just trying to find whatever clicks for him mentally to be able to take it day in and day out."
Knecht also recognizes that consistency and repetition are going to be keys for him to reach that next level and move up the organizational ladder.
"I'm just working on repeating myself – kind of like how a pitcher has to repeat his delivery – just repeating my timing mechanism and just sticking with my approach," Knecht said.
"I'm learning how to stick with it in every single at-bat as opposed to maybe a couple of at-bats a game in a couple games a week. It's just repeating it every time and being more consistent."
While it may not necessarily appear in the box score or Knecht's slash line, the 6-foot-1 left fielder has been working on improving his all-around game this season. Knecht has always flashed some speed and been able to swipe a handful of bags over the course of a season.
"I feel like I've gotten better defensively and am learning when to steal bases," he added. "I've realized that I got speed and that I can steal bases, but I'm learning when I should, in what counts, and in what situations.
"This year has allowed me to realize that there are other ways to help the team win like defense, base running, and just focusing on different things besides just hitting. As a baseball player I feel like I've been coming around."
While there are still some kinks in Knecht's game that he will ultimately need to figure out before making the next step to Double-A, there is definite power potential here. Even with a less than impressive season on paper at Dunedin this year, Clapp still feels that Knecht has made overall progression and is encouraged with what he has seen.
"Sometimes you've got to throw numbers out the window and be able to take the day-to-day approach – see what they've done and take the positives out of that day. That's where we're at with him," Clapp said.
"His numbers aren't terrible. He could still very easily put together some decent numbers and finish strong by the end of year. We obviously expect that to happen and want that to happen for him. It's just taking that one step at a time and keeping it simple. We're taking it one day at a time and build off of that."
DUNEDIN, FL - It doesn't always come across so glaringly in minor league statistics but Dunedin outfielder Marcus Knecht, who really struggled at the high-A level in 2012, has done a much better job making the adjustments this season.
It might not glaringly show in the numbers but Marcus Knecht has been better in 2013.