Emerson making strong impression in camp

March 1st, 2024

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- When the Mariners selected Colt Emerson with their first-round pick in last year’s Draft, they knew he still had plenty of room to metaphorically grow. But they didn’t realize how rapidly he’d do so physically as well.

Emerson reported to Spring Training an estimated 20 pounds heavier than the 195 pounds he’s listed at, and he’s noticeably grown taller in the seven short months since being taken with the No. 22 overall pick, looking much more like a potential power threat than the pure-hitter projections that most reports listed him with, though he still has those skills, too.

“I’m where I should be,” Emerson said on Wednesday, after making a brief Cactus League appearance. “I feel strong. I feel fast. I feel explosive. So, I’ve just got to keep going through the season like that.”

Emerson went 0-for-2 with a walk and strikeout, but a deeper look shows some of the attributes that the Mariners have been impressed with. In his first plate appearance, he fell behind 0-2 before working the count full, with a few close takes before being called out. In his second, he drew a free pass on five pitches. In his third, he hit into a double play. At shortstop, he looked comfortable, even if he might not profile there a few years from now.

“I didn’t mind the results,” Emerson said. “I have a process coming in here, and I did my process. It didn’t turn out like I wanted it, but we’re here and we’re playing baseball, so I can’t be nothing but happy.”

Like most teams, the Mariners allot at least one Cactus League appearance from their first-rounder the year prior, meaning Emerson likely won’t see more action on the big league side -- though he will play in Seattle’s Spring Breakout game on March 15. In the interim, he left an impression, particularly with his acumen.

“Colt Emerson is going to have an answer all the time,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “And well thought out, makes sense, baseball terminology really good."

“If I'm betting on anything, I'm betting on just the competitor, brain, all of it,” Mariners Minor League hitting coordinator CJ Gillman said. “Like, he just really competes. And he just kind of knows who he is and is who he is -- which is like a superpower in baseball.”

At just 18 years old, Emerson is coming off a season in which he played just 24 pro games but made the most of them.

After a quick stint in the Arizona Complex League, including a homer in his first career plate appearance, he was promoted in late August to Single-A Modesto, where he went 19-for-63 with a homer, six doubles, eight RBIs, four stolen bases, 11 walks and 14 strikeouts, good for a slash line of .302/.436/.444 (.880 OPS). He was a big part of the Nuts winning the California League championship, headlined by a four-hit night in the title game.

For most Minor Leaguers, those reps are strictly about development and addressing what’s in their specific “Player Plan,” as the Mariners moniker it. But there was an unquantifiable experience of playing in tense games within a title run.

“Not many guys are blessed with, I guess, [playing on] a good enough team to make the playoffs and win a championship like we did,” Emerson said. “So going out and doing that gave me a bunch of experience that I'm very thankful for.”

Emerson is ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 87 overall prospect and the Mariners’ No. 3, though some within and outside the organization think he might be the best among Seattle’s hitting-heavy farm system.