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Mariners' future on display at Summer Camp

@gregjohnsmlb
July 12, 2020

SEATTLE -- There’s been plenty of talk about young Mariners pitching prospects Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock, the club’s first-round Draft picks the past three years. The Mariners certainly are counting on those promising right-handers to lead their charge into the future. But less discussed has been the

SEATTLE -- There’s been plenty of talk about young Mariners pitching prospects Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock, the club’s first-round Draft picks the past three years. The Mariners certainly are counting on those promising right-handers to lead their charge into the future.

But less discussed has been the growing depth developing behind those elite youngsters, a critical point, given that not every top prospect pans out as planned. That is why the Mariners are just as excited about the potential of southpaw Brandon Williamson, who displayed an intriguing curveball and slider to go with a 92-93 mph fastball in his two-inning intrasquad debut on Saturday at T-Mobile Park.

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Williamson, 22, was the Mariners’ second-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Texas Christian, and you can toss the lanky 6-foot-6 lefty in the growing pool of pitching talent coming through the system.

Add in Isaiah Campbell, a 6-foot-4 right-hander out of Arkansas who the Mariners landed with a Competitive Balance B pick right after Williamson last year, as well as 20-year-old Juan Then out of the Dominican Republic, and you can see why Seattle is bullish on its young group of hurlers.

Gilbert throws his 1st pitches at T-Mobile Park

Those youngsters -- along with the trio of first-round picks -- are all starters who were invited to Summer Camp with the idea of getting their arms built up as much as possible in this shortened season in order to not undercut their development. None are expected to join the Major League staff in the 60-game regular season, but all will pitch regularly in intrasquad games at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium for the next few months.

“Where we’re at with our pitching, it’s as good a group as I’ve ever seen in my years,” said manager Scott Servais, who worked as a player personnel director with the Rangers and Angels prior to taking over in Seattle four years ago. “Not just at the high end, but the depth of the group.

“You go 6, 7, 8, 9 guys deep, and all these guys just have very limited experience, but you see what’s in there, the untapped potential,” he said. “It’s really fun for the coaches. It’s one thing when you’re working with kids and you’re trying to get the most out of them, but when they come with that much talent, you really get to challenge yourself as a coach: ‘How quickly can I get this guy up to speed?’ So a lot of good vibes going on with our coaching staff. They’re excited about the guys we’re running out there every day.”

Williamson pitched at Short-Season Class A Everett last year, posting a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 innings with 25 strikeouts and five walks. But despite that limited experience, he found himself standing on the mound at T-Mobile Park on Saturday facing Major League hitters and other elite prospects.

“Facing some of our top guys in the organization, it’s awesome. I love the competition,” Williamson said. “It’s just good to get back out there and throw. It’s been like eight months since we’ve played in a real game.”

Williamson’s goal is to continue soaking up as much experience and knowledge as he can from this unique situation of being in the Mariners’ 60-man Player Pool.

“A lot of guys aren’t getting this chance,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to keep working with the organization, keep getting better and prepare for next year. These guys are extremely talented and know the game very well, and they’re very willing to share that with us and help us move along a little quicker than we probably would without them. Everyone is taking real advantage of that.”

Williamson has already proven to be a quick study. He relied primarily on a fastball/slider combo in college, but at the encouragement of Everett pitching coach Ari Ronick, Williamson added an overhand curve last year that already looks imposing coming out of his 6-foot-6 frame.

“He said, 'You’ve got a high arm slot, pretty fast arm, let’s see if you can throw a 12-6 [curve] straight down out of that,'” Williamson said. “We did some drills, and I just started throwing hammers. It felt good.”

It’s that learning curve the Mariners are looking to accelerate for their young arms in the next few months as they try to get as much as possible out of this truncated year.

“When you have so many talented guys, you’re raising the bar,” Servais said. “You see a lot of our guys in the stands watching on the days they’re not pitching. They’re trying to see what the other guys are doing. Even though we’re all on the same team, they’re all competing against each other for those spots down the road. So there are a lot of good things going on.”

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.