Blaine Knight was a draft-eligible sophomore with the potential to go in the second round of the 2017 MLB Draft. But the Arkansas right-handed pitcher elected to return to school for his junior season in 2018.
Knight felt he still had something to prove in the college ranks. He posted an 8-4 record with a 3.28 ERA, 96 strikeouts and 20 walks in 90.2 innings as the Razorbacks’ No. 1 starter last season.
“I had the opportunity (to turn pro) and it would’ve been a good chance,” Knight said. “But I didn’t feel like I was ready to leave just yet. I felt like I had some more growing to do here on the mound and as a person.”
In eight starts this season, Knight’s decision to hold off on a pro career is paying off. The righty is 6-0 with a 1.93 ERA, 48 strikeouts and 11 walks in 46.2 innings.
MLB.com ranked Knight as the 46th-best prospect in the 2018 MLB Draft class prior to the start of the collegiate season.
“I went through the ringer with the draft and everything last year. Now it’s not a big deal,” Knight said. “To be honest, I don’t even really notice the scouts in the stands anymore. It’s one of those things where I’m out there to get the job done and help my team win.”
A 6-foot-3, 170-pound righty, Knight has a four-pitch repertoire. His best pitch is his fastball that sits in the mid-90s and tops out at 97. He throws a mid-80s slider/cutter, which is his best off-speed pitch and an above-average offering. Knight also mixes in an effective curveball and changeup.
Knight generates velocity with a low effort delivery that he repeats well and allows him to throw a high percentage of strikes.
“My glove (left) side command is by far the best thing,” said Knight on his biggest strength. “I can go glove side at any point and time and grab a strike with it. I don’t walk guys very often. I think that has been my biggest key.
“I’m either making them hit it and put it in play or striking batters out. I don’t give opposing teams many opportunities to score unless they’re hitting one out of the yard. I think that’s my biggest strong suit. I force stuff to happen and it goes my way quite a bit.”
Knight took the last two summers off to rest and recover after throwing an increased amount of innings.
This past offseason, Knight worked on developing his changeup and improving his command on the right side of the plate.
“I’m happy with them right now, but I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I’m never pleased until it’s perfect,” he said. “That’s something I want to keep working on and improving on. It’s been good so far, but I feel like if I can get them down to where I want them to be, it’ll be a lot of fun.”
Despite his success, Knight hasn’t pitched deep into games this season. In his eight starts, Knight has pitched more than six innings just twice. He recorded 6.2 innings against No. 2-ranked Florida on March 23 and 6.1 innings against No. 13 Auburn on April 6.
“I think the main reason I haven’t gone over six innings is just because of how the game has played out,” he said. “There’s been an inning where we had an error or two and that drove my pitch count up or something else happened.
“There’s not a set number of innings I go each time. I’m not trying to push over 100 pitches unless I have to at this point of the season. If my pitch count is good and I’m feeling good, I will go six, seven, eight or nine innings if my pitch count allows me.”
Find more 2018 MLB Draft profiles here.