SEATTLE -- While the Mariners haven’t been able to play any games in what was slated to be a developmental 2020 season, general manager Jerry Dipoto and his crew added to a growing group of premier pitching prospects by selecting Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock with the No. 6 pick in
SEATTLE -- While the Mariners haven’t been able to play any games in what was slated to be a developmental 2020 season, general manager Jerry Dipoto and his crew added to a growing group of premier pitching prospects by selecting Georgia right-hander Emerson Hancock with the No. 6 pick in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday.
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The 21-year-old becomes the third straight college pitcher selected by the Mariners in the first round, joining top picks Logan Gilbert out of Stetson in 2018 and George Kirby from Elon in ’19. That group, along with trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn and others, have have transformed a thin Seattle farm system into one of the fastest-rising systems in MLB.
“Jerry made the joke, we’re starting to become like the Wells Fargo of young pitching,” said Mariners amateur scouting director Scott Hunter. “Emerson jumps right into that group. We’re starting to stockpile some arms and have a pretty good arms race that could lead us to some winning times in Seattle.”
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Hunter said that Hancock profiles as a top-of-the-rotation type starter and the Mariners are intrigued by his power arm and potential.
Hancock features a mid-90s fastball and quality slider, as well as a developing curve and changeup. He finished his Georgia career with a 16-7 record and 3.47 ERA in 33 starts, striking out 206 with 55 walks in 192 innings. He was also named the 2020 Vince Dooley Athlete of the Year as the school’s top male student-athlete.
• Hancock brings ‘fiery side’ mound presence to Mariners
Hancock said that he’s 12 credits shy of graduation in sports management and has promised his parents that he’ll stick with it and finish his degree. That well-rounded approach is one of the things Hunter loves to see.
“It’s easy to dream on Emerson Hancock because of the person, but also the ability and work ethic,” Hunter said. “I was so impressed with him when I went down to Athens, Ga., last January and spent about two hours with him and when we talked to him on the phone as recently as two months ago. The maturity, the whole person and player is really remarkable. ... This is a kid who fits into everything we’re doing as Seattle Mariners.”
Hancock has good size at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds, and the junior out of Cairo, Ga., showed strong improvement during his three seasons in the tough Southeastern Conference. After going 6-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 15 starts as a freshman, Hancock was 8-3 with a 1.99 ERA in 14 starts as a sophomore and then 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA and 34 strikeouts and three walks in 24 innings in four outings this spring before the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down.
There was talk last year that Hancock might be the first overall selection in 2020, but Hunter believes that some teams might have backed off because Hancock wasn’t quite as sharp in his initial outings this spring.
“The expectations were so great going into the year after what he did in 2019, his first couple outings he’s just building up,” Hunter said. “We didn’t see anything concerning. That probably played up our opportunity to get him, but I don’t think any kid across the country come Feb. 14 [Georgia's Opening Day] is really ready to go nine innings. We don’t expect it from our big league players. Why should we expect it from college and high school kids?”
For Hancock, it all worked out just fine. He’ll likely earn a signing bonus close to the slotted $5.7 million for a No. 6 selection and he winds up with an organization building around its young pitching.
“I think it’s a great fit for me,” Hancock said on a Zoom call with reporters. “It worked out just the way it was supposed to. I’m very blessed for the Mariners believing in me. It’s great, and now I’m ready to get to work.”
With baseball still on hold, it’s not clear yet when exactly that will be, however.
“There’s talk of maybe an extended Fall League or more traditional Instructional League if the health situation and pandemic are in a better spot,” Hunter said. “But we’re all in a wait-and-see mode right now.”
The Mariners will be patient, but they’re eager to see how Hancock fits into their future, and Georgia head coach Scott Stricklin says Hancock has a lot more in the tank as he continues developing.
"It happened really quick with him," Stricklin told MLB.com last month. "And that's the exciting thing about Emerson, is just his upside is so big. He's got another jump in him. I really believe that he's going to be a guy that's going to take another tick up. He's still got a very high ceiling."
The Draft continues on Thursday with Rounds 2-5. The MLB Network preview show begins at 1 p.m. PT, with live coverage on MLB Network and ESPN2 beginning at 2 p.m. PT. Go to MLB.com/Draft for complete coverage, including every pick on the Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.
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In all, 37 players were selected on Wednesday. The Mariners have five remaining selections, having added a Competitive Balance Round B pick the Brewers in a trade for catcher Omar Narváez, and will select at pick Nos. 43, 64, 78, 107 and 137 on Thursday.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.