When you think back to the 2015 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees took pitchers such as James Kaprielian (First Round) and Chance Adams (Fifth Round). Another pitcher that the Bronx Bombers selected in that draft was Clemson right-hander Brody Koerner in the 17th Round.
Last season, Koerner was able to make it up to Double-A Trenton for the final three months of the season. In total, with High-A Tampa and Trenton, he went 10-4 with a 3.52 ERA, struck out 71, and walked 29 in 107.1 innings.
Even though Koerner joined Trenton late, his 70.2 innings were the fifth most of any pitcher on the Thunder staff. In his first season with the Yankees, Koerner was a reliever. Since 2016, the now 24-year-old is back in the starting rotation.
In his junior season with Clemson (2015), Koerner was on the same staff as Matt Crownover (Fifth Round pick by the Nationals) who won ACC Pitcher of the Year. Koerner gave up the most earned runs (52) and the eighth most hits (89) in the entire conference.
Despite giving up all of those earned runs, Koerner was one of eight pitchers to throw a shutout in the ACC that season. That shutout came against South Carolina on March 2 when he pitched a complete game and struck out seven.
As for his pitch arsenal, he has a fastball that can get up to the mid 90’s regarding velocity to go with a slider, sinker, changeup, and curveball. Back in 2016 when he was at Low-A Charleston, Koerner told our own Joseph Dixon about how he attacks hitters:
“I want to be around 70% strikes, I think that’s a good number to have with all my pitches. That’s honestly the goal. Being a sinker ball guy, I want to get contact early, I want people to roll over stuff. That’s the plan, to pound the zone and go from there.”
Let’s take a closer look at how Koerner has done with the Yankees
As mentioned earlier, Koerner began his professional career in the bullpen. He started off with Rookie Level Pulaski before being promoted to Charleston in mid-August.
In 13 games with Pulaski, he had a 1.00 ERA, went 5-for-5 in save chances, struck out 18 batters, and walked five in 18 innings. He only gave up a run in one of those outings when he allowed two runs against the Bristol Pirates on July 27. As for his command, he did not walk a batter in his final seven outings.
Once he got to Charleston, he went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA and had three saves in four chances over the course of eight outings. While he did blow a save on August 28 against Hickory, it was the only outing in which he did not give up an earned run.
Despite the good numbers, he did have less than a strikeout per outing (seven), and three of those came in his final appearance of the year against Augusta (September 4) when he gave up four hits over 2.2 innings.
2016 started off great for Koerner while he was with the Riverdogs. In his first outing of the season against Asheville on April 11, he threw seven shutout innings, gave up four hits, and struck out nine in a win. After two more solid outings, he was promoted to Tampa.
In those two starts in the Florida State League, he gave up three runs in 13.1 innings despite hitting three batters. However, his season was cut short after May 3 due to a stress fracture in his elbow.
After the season was over, he did get to pitch in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions. In six games (four starts), he had a 6.75 ERA, struck out 13, and walked 11 in 20 innings. However, in those kinds of leagues, all that is important is the pitcher stays healthy and gets his work in.
This past season, Koerner began the year in Tampa and had six walks in his first three outings (seven runs allowed). After that rough start, the right-hander went at least seven innings in each of his next three starts, and he ended up winning four straight outings before moving up to Trenton. Here is some video we have of Koerner while he was with Tampa.
With the Thunder, Koerner made a good impression in his Eastern League debut on July 4. He prevented the Reading bats from having any fireworks as he threw eight shutout innings and had 102 pitches in a victory.
While he did have that shutout, Koerner was getting hit around in the EL. In 12 starts, he went 6-3 with a 4.08 ERA and allowed 84 hits in 70.2 innings while striking out only 45. The 84 hits were the fourth most allowed on the Thunder.
Out of those 12 outings, he gave up five runs in four of them and opponents had a batting average against of .292.
Koerner should be starting in the Trenton rotation next year, but he is going to need to get his groundball percentage up as a sinkerball pitcher. This past season, teams only hit grounders 48 percent of the time in 2017 according to Fangraphs. With the strikeout numbers not being high, the groundball outs will be a big key in 2018.