Healthy Hancock recaps Mariners' HP camp

Recovered from shoulder issue, No. 4 prospect building strength in AZ

November 13th, 2021

SEATTLE -- eagerly watched the Braves’ World Series run this year and allowed himself to dream.

The Mariners’ No. 4 prospect (MLB Pipeline’s No. 34 overall) is a South Georgia native and was nearly four years away from being born the last time his childhood team won it all. And he’s keenly cognizant that his No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs could make it a two-fer in the Peach State this year. All of this winning has the blossoming starting pitcher dreaming of hoisting a trophy himself one day.

“I know the state of Georgia, the city of Atlanta was really ready for that,” Hancock said. “You saw the reaction at The Battery and the crowds and the parades, I mean, that city really wanted that.”

Hancock was speaking from the Mariners’ Spring Training facility in Arizona, where he’s taking part in the team’s high-performance camp with 32 other top Mariners’ prospects. Everything about this experience is calculated. Hancock awakens, heads to the field with a quick breakfast in between, goes through mental-skills meetings, throws with the other pitchers then lifts. He’s been there a month and has one week left.

Best of all, in his case, is that his right shoulder impingement that prompted the Mariners to shut down his season in early September isn’t holding him back or causing any pain.

“I feel like I've battled that for majority of the year, but I love the pitch, there's no doubt about it,” Hancock said. “If I feel good enough, I wanted to go out there and pitch and compete. I dealt with that, but it feels great right now.”

The true challenge won’t come until next spring, and his 2022 season comes with a few uncertainties, even if he’s healthy. Hancock threw just 44 2/3 innings this year and just 24 in ’20 at Georgia, with most of his work limited to the alternate training site after the Minors season was canceled. The Mariners haven’t outlined to him what a realistic number is, but making a significant jump from there, especially with how careful the club has monitored its young arms, is of intrigue.

“My plan next year is to not miss a start,” Hancock said. “And I think the work that we have done since the end of this season leading into this camp and then going into the offseason, I think that goal will probably be fulfilled for me.”

To help prepare for that spike, Hancock has implemented a new arm-care program more tailored to strengthen the scapular muscles in his shoulder. He’s also added muscle and said that he’s up to 220 pounds, a weight that he’s comfortable with.

Hancock missed a start in late May then was shut down for five weeks a month later due to the same issue, which kept him from participating in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. When he finally returned, he was promoted from High A Everett to Double-A Arkansas, where he made three starts before his final shutdown. For the year, Hancock compiled a 2.62 ERA and a 1.030 WHIP while racking up 43 strikeouts and walking 17. He gave up just one homer to 179 batters faced.

“I learned a lot about what I needed to do moving forward, and it was fun,” Hancock said. “It was challenging but fun to be on that Everett group that Arkansas group and kind of the players we had.”

After all the start and stop over a nearly two-year stretch since the pandemic’s initial shutdown, Hancock is looking forward to a more traditional offseason. And he’s picked up some culinary skills along the way. One component of the HP camp is developing more sound nutritional understanding, and the players have full access to Mariners dietician Edith Shreckengast on site.

For a lot of these younger players, Hancock included, they went straight from their parents’ dinner tables to their college’s dining halls -- both with structure -- to a Minor League lifestyle that can sometimes lack it.

“That's my main emphasis,” Hancock said. “If we get anything out of this [interview], my main emphasis in the offseason is to learn how to cook and to take care of that nutrition side. If I can do that, it’s been a great offseason. My mom would love hearing that.”

Hancock will soon be headed into the winter slumber happy, healthy -- and certainly not hungry.