Name: Corey Kluber
DOB: April 10, 1986
A fourth-round pick out of Stetson this year, Kluber was one of the last players to sign his deal and join the squad. While everyone else had been playing together for a month, Kluber was the odd man in.
Without fanfare, he went about his business in a workmanlike fashion. His quiet demeanor may leave some wondering how much fire he has when he takes the hill, but that same calm, cool, and collected persona serves him well on the bump.
The right-hander never gets too high or too low during his outing. One hit will not break him, just as one strikeout does not mean his work is done.
His fierce competitiveness is evident in how he attacks the hitters. He throws strikes, challenges them, and isn't afraid of working inside.
While some will take his skills for granted, Kluber's locked-in attitude on the mound can change a hitter's mind – and quickly.
The righty came into short-season Eugene not knowing anyone and performed admirably.
He was then shipped to Lake Elsinore while they were in the midst of the playoffs and was asked to contribute. Unfortunately, his tired arm was no match for the California League playoff combatants, as he posted a 12.60 ERA over five innings of work.
"Kluber is a nice looking pitcher," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "He came in after a late signing. We had to ween him back in so he was ready to rock and roll."
He molds himself after big leaguers like John Smoltz and Roger Clemens. While he doesn't have the fastball of either – it is their demeanor and personality that he takes to heart, looking at how they operate when staring down an opponent, including the mannerisms and facial expressions. Pretty good guys to emulate. Kluber tosses a fastball that sat in 88-90 MPH during the season and hit 92, but he also threw a lot of innings this past season and scout believe he will sit low-90s in the coming year.
His slider is his out pitch and has good tilting action and late break that makes it tough for hitters to catch up to. He uses it effectively against both right-handers and left-handers – setting up the at-bat by locating his fastballs and peppering the zone with strikes.
His curveball has been more of a show-me pitch that he rarely uses and offers three or four times a game to keep hitters honest. It isn't a pitch he has a lot of trust in.
Kluber flashed a changeup that was above average at times but very inconsistent. A go-to pitch in college, he lost the feel of it and never seemed to get back on track. As a result, he lost faith in the offering and was relegated to two pitches – the fastball and slider, cutting down on his effectiveness, especially when he was tired.
"He looked like he had good enough stuff to be a pretty good pitcher," said Riddoch. "We did it a tiny bit at a time. The arm counts more than any win could count."
At the Padres fall Instructional League, Kluber worked almost exclusively on the changeup, trying to regain the feel and placement of what will be an important pitch as he moves forward.
"He improved in the Instructional League," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said. "He has a good delivery, basically average stuff across the board, but he will pitch in the big leagues. Time will tell what type of role."
During the season, he was trying to be too fine with the pitch and by focusing so much on the pinpoint control that he wanted. A valuable lesson was taught to him at the Instructs – ‘let the hitter tell you what the pitch does. Don't try and see it with your eyes.'
The theory is to allow the pitch to do its natural work without worrying so much about the drop, the break, the movement, and command. If the mechanics stay clean, the changeup will do its job.
He also spent time working on using his backside to get behind the ball, keeping the pressure off his arm – as he had a tendency to drag behind, putting more stress on the shoulder to whip the arm forward. Aligning his body, he can get more push off the rubber and even increase his velocity as a result.
"Kluber is the one guy that I think is really exciting," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "He's a little more athletic than (some of the other pitchers drafted in 2007)."
ETA: With Fuson clearly in his corner, Kluber has a chance to move quickly. He has the moxie and the courage to work inside and mixes his pitches well. If he can command the lower half of the zone, Kluber should be in Double-A by next year. This season will be telling because of his limited exposure in year one.
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