What the Mariners are saying about the 3 pitchers they drafted on day 1
The Mariners had three picks on the first day of the 2019 MLB Draft, and they went like this:
College pitcher. College pitcher. And college pitcher.
There was an obvious theme to what the Mariners did with their selections in the first, second and competitive balance B rounds, and Scott Hunter, the team’s director of amateur scouting, explained to beat reporters what Seattle saw that made them go as heavy as possible in the pitching department on Monday.
Here’s a look at what Hunter had to say about each of the Mariners’ three new pitching prospects: Elon University’s George Kirby, TCU’s Brandon Williamson and Arkansas’ Isaiah Campbell.
Kirby, who the Mariners picked with the No. 20 overall selection in the first round, has drawn comparisons to Seattle’s 2018 first-round pick, Logan Gilbert. Hunter was one of the people making those comparisons.
“It was an exciting time for us to get we think a power arm that throws a ton of strikes and that has some projection left in his body – very similar to how low we felt about Logan,” Hunter said.
It also helped that Kirby “had a coming out party in Cape Cod last year just like Logan Gilbert did,” added Hunter.
Kirby starred in the Cape, posting a 1.20 ERA with 24 strikeouts and just one walk in 11 relief appearances (13 innings) for the Harwich Mariners in the most prestigious summer league for college players.
“He went up there and proved that not only did he have the ability to compete against better competition, (but he is) pretty dynamic,” Hunter said.
While Kirby pitched out of the bullpen with those other Mariners, don’t expect him to do so when he arrives in Seattle’s farm system. Hunter said Kirby is definitely going to be a starter due to his “command, control (and) potential for four ‘plus’ pitches.”
The thing that jumps out above all about Kirby is his control – he leads the nation in 2019 with a ridiculous 17.83 strikeouts-to-walk ratio (107 strikeouts to just six walks) and average of 0.61 walks per nine innings.
“It kinda punches you in the face when you look at it and you actually have to ask if it’s real,” Hunter said about Kirby’s walk rate. “With all of our different technology and our analysts and all the different video stuff, it is.”
Kirby doesn’t just have pinpoint control, though. He brings it, and Hunter said the Mariners are confident he will fill out his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame and continue to get stronger.
“Our scouting reports have him anywhere pitching anywhere in the 92 to 98 (mph) range,” Hunter said.
The lone left-hander the Mariners selected on the first day, Williamson has been in the shadow of fellow TCU southpaw Nick Lodolo, who was picked seventh overall by the Reds on Monday. But that may have been a good thing for Seattle’s second-round selection.
“I think it was one of those things, it was very competitive,” Hunter said about Williamson and Lodolo pitching on the same staff, “and the more we saw Lodolo we were able to catch this kid and get a really good feel for him.”
While Williamson doesn’t have quite the same numbers as his teammate with the Horned Frogs or the other two pitchers Seattle picked on Monday, he’s got upside.
“Lodolo’s probably a bit more of a control, command (pitcher), got a little bit prettier delivery, but I do believe Brandon is more of a power arm,” Hunter said. “He’s been up to 95, 96 as well… (and) I think he’s a got a little left in the tank.”
Worth noting is that Williamson had a torn labrum in his hip at one point during his college career, but Hunter said the past injury didn’t raise any red flags with medical doctors.
Campbell’s the ace for the Razorbacks, who are currently looking to clinch a return trip to the College World Series, and Hunter said he’s got a “really good track record in the SEC.”
“Another big, physical right-handed pitcher that we see could be an innings-eater at the next level,” Hunter said.
Hunter added that Campbell has a history working with Mariners director of pitching development and strategies Brian Delunas and that Campbell made an adjustment to his arm angle between the 2018 and 2019 seasons that paid off.
“He went through a rough period last year,” Hunter said. “… He was more over the top (with his arm angle) last year and struggled with his command, and there was an adjustment he made this year and he’s really taken off.”