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Cyclones' Carter, Bucs' Knack go in second round of draft

Joe Avento and Douglas Fritz • Jun 11, 2020 at 10:15 PM

The second day of the Major League Baseball draft was a good one for a couple of local players. Elizabethton’s Evan Carter and East Tennessee State’s Landon Knack both went in the second round.

In what might have been the surprise of the draft, Carter was taken with the 50th pick by the Texas Rangers. Knack went to the Los Angeles Dodgers with the 60th selection.

Carter, a 6-foot-4, 190-pound outfielder, has signed with Duke.

He is the highest high school MLB draft pick from Northeast Tennessee since Sullivan High School’s Alvin Sells in 1967. Sells, a right-handed pitcher, was the No. 36 pick overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Science Hill’s Daniel Norris went at No. 74 to the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011.

Carter received a phone call from the Rangers almost simultaneously with the announcement of his name on ESPN2.

“I tell you, it was awesome,” he said. “My friends and my family were here to support me. My hands were shaking.

“It was the most excited I had been in a long time.”

Knack’s selection came after the Johnson City native watched all 40 rounds go by without seeing his name called in last year’s draft.

“It’s an unreal feeling to hear my name called after watching the draft last year,” Knack said. “I couldn’t be more excited to work with an organization that does so well with player development. I want to thank my teammates, Coach (Joe) Pennucci, Coach (Micah) Posey, Coach (Ross) Oeder, Coach (Zach) Murray and Coach (Daniel) Sweeney for everything they’ve done for me the over the last two years.”

Elizabethton coach Ryan Presnell said he wasn’t surprised Carter was picked so high based on what he saw in the shortened high school season.

“The activity with the scouts, for what little season we had, was just incredible,” Presnell said. “It wasn’t just area scouts. It was national guys. And it was very focused. He’s the type of kid they know will have a chance to make it to Major League Baseball.

“Teams knew they would be getting a hidden talent. And if they didn’t take him now, he would have cost them even more after three or four years at Duke. He’s definitely a first-round talent.”

In his junior year, his last full season of high school ball, Carter was the Johnson City Press/Times News Super 22 player of the year. He batted .324 with four homers and 27 RBIs while leading the Cyclones to the state tournament for a second straight season.

Carter went 10-2 with an ERA of 1.35. He pitched a gem to get the Cyclones past Alcoa in the sectional. And in the Class AA tournament, he tossed a four-hit complete game in an elimination contest against Pigeon Forge, a 4-2 Cyclones victory.

The slotted assigned value of the signing bonus for the 50th pick, according to MLB, was listed as $1,469,900. The 60th pick was listed as $1,157,400. Players don’t always get the assigned values of their picks; it’s based on circumstances.

“I know a Duke scholarship is worth a lot of money,” Presnell said. “At the slot he was picked, that’s life-changing money. But he has an incredible amount of leverage.”

Knack led NCAA Division I with 51 strikeouts. Throw in his one walk, and he most likely set an all-time record for strikeout-to-walk ratio — a mark not kept in the NCAA record book.

He won all four of his starts and posted a 1.29 ERA. Along the way, he broke the school record with 16 strikeouts in a game and almost pitched a perfect game.

Along with a fastball that reached 98 mph and regularly came in around 95, he was credited with having the best control in Division I. Of his 352 pitches, 74% were strikes.

“Landon is a hard worker, dedicated and a fantastic teammate,” Pennucci said. “The fact that Landon is extremely coachable and is willing to make adjustments will take him a long way in this game. Our entire coaching staff is proud of him and excited for his future. Being selected in the MLB draft is an incredible accomplishment, but to be selected when there are only five rounds is extraordinary. To be picked with just 160 total players in this year’s draft shows how special Landon really is.”

Knack was 9-4 as a junior at ETSU after an All-America career at Walters State, during which he went 13-0 as a sophomore while batting .343 with 11 home runs.

Knack’s brother-in-law is Will Craig, who is closing in on making the majors with the Pirates after hitting 23 homers in Triple-A last year.

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