Mariners Draft Takeaways: How does Emerson Hancock fit with M’s?
The Mariners again went with a college pitcher in the first round of a draft under general manager Jerry Dipoto, taking highly-touted Georgia righty Emerson Hancock with the No. 6 selection.
Hancock, a 2019 Second-Team All-American and First-Team All-SEC member, was an early favorite to go No. 1 overall, and the Mariners had to be thrilled when the first five selections came through and he was still available.
So what does his selection mean for the Mariners? Here are my thoughts and takeaways after the Mariners selection of Hancock.
1) Lots of arms in the farm
My first reaction to the pick was “wow, another starting pitcher.” And no, I’m not saying that as a bad thing.
Currently, eight of the Mariners’ top 15 prospects according to MLB Pipeline are starting pitchers, headlined by 2018 first-round pick Logan Gilbert, who is the team’s No. 3 prospect and the No. 38 prospect in all of baseball, as well as 2019 first rounder George Kirby, Seattle’s fifth prospect and MLB’s No. 100 overall prospect.
The organization also has guys like Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, who were both centerpieces of offseason trades who, at one time, were both top 100 prospects. Dunn is Seattle’s No. 7 prospect and Sheffield is No. 13. Additionally, Seattle used their second and third picks in 2019 on starting pitchers Brandon Williamson and Isaiah Campbell, who are the Mariners 11th and 12th prospects, respectfully.
The odds all these guys hit as major-league starters is unlikely, but adding a guy like Hancock, who was at one time the favorite to go No. 1 in 2020, adds more potential starters for when the team is able to compete for a playoff berth and ideally a World Series title.
2) Where does Hancock rank in the farm system?
So we talked about rankings in the previous point, and I think that personally, I would rate Hancock between Gilbert and first baseman Evan White, making him Seattle’s fourth overall prospect.
Why? I think Hancock offers four potential plus pitches with his fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, and he throws a ton of strikes. In three seasons at Georgia, he struck out 206 and walked 55 in 192 innings. Worth noting, 34 of those walks came in 77.2 innings as a freshman, so the command has drastically improved as have his stats.
As far as his placement behind Gilbert, that’s because Gilbert is obviously more polished as he’s been a pro since 2018. Gilbert also was one of the best pitchers in the minors last season, going 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 135 innings across three levels.
I’m really high on Evan White and think he should hold his own at first base and in the box for years to come, but first base isn’t the most valuable position. Starting pitching is extremely valuable, and Hancock was a very high draft pick at No. 6 overall.
3) Right call taking Hancock over Nick Gonzales?
If you heard me talk to Bob, Dave and Moore on Monday (32:22 mark) or Tom, Jake and Stacy on Wednesday before the draft (24:42 mark), you’ll know I mentioned the Mariners should take Nick Gonzales, a second baseman from New Mexico State. He was still on the board when Seattle chose Hancock, and he went No. 7 to the Pirates.
Part of the reason I said that was that I was under the impression that Hancock would go before No. 6. I thought that Toronto at No. 5 would snag him because I thought the first three picks were set in stone and that the Royals would take a bat. Well, only the No. 1 pick was set, and picks 2-5 was all over the place.
But anyways, while I think very highly of Gonzales, I do think that Hancock was a great selection for the Mariners.
He has top-of-the-rotation stuff with his four-pitch mix, an electric fastball and throws a ton of strikes. He’s big and strong at 6 foot 4 and 215 pounds and he should physically be able to hold up for a long season and pitch every fifth day.
I will say that I think overall, there’s more value for a top-of-the-order hitter like I think Gonzales can be compared to a starting pitcher, but between the two, Hancock has the higher ceiling by far. Between him and Gilbert, the Mariners could have a tough choice of who is the opening day starter a few years from now. Plus, like I mentioned, you can never have enough pitching.
4) How soon could we see Hancock in the bigs?
This is something I talked a bit about on Wednesday with Bob, Dave and Moore shortly after the pick came in, and the answer is really anywhere from 2020 to 2023.
For this year, if we do get baseball, it’ll be at the pro level. Minor league guys aren’t going to be playing. That would also lead to the expansion of rosters, which would open the door for minor league players who may have been call-ups at some point.
With Hancock, maybe the Mariners want to get him up and just see what he can do, even in very limited innings, especially since he made just four starts in college this year. There’s a slight chance, but I could also see Seattle being safe with him.
My guess would be mid-2022, however. I think he starts 2021 in Single-A and works his way to High-A and then ends the year in Double-A. Then in 2022, I think he’ll start in Double-A and then either go up to Triple-A Tacoma or skip it like Kyle Lewis and Dunn have done. If he makes his debut in 2023, it would be later than I would expect, but it wouldn’t be that late, especially compared to most prospects.
5) What’s next for the Mariners in the draft?
The Mariners will make five selections on Thursday, starting with the No. 43 pick. Additionally, Seattle acquired a competitive balance round B pick this offseason, which is the 63rd overall selection and technically a second-round pick. After that, the Mariners have one pick each in the third, fourth and fifth rounds.
After taking a pitcher in the first round, where do they go from there?
The Mariners have some solid outfield depth, so if they do target position players, I think middle infield and catcher are positions of need.
After Shed Long and J.P. Crawford at second base and shortstop, respectively, Seattle has just two middle infielders in their top 30 prospect list, and one of them, Noelvi Marte, is expected to shift to third base at some point because the 18 year old is big and still growing.
At catcher, Tom Murphy and Austin Nola are with the big league club, and Cal Raleigh is the organization’s No. 8 prospect. After that, the depth is a little thin. Adding another backstop would be a big get.
And then there’s pitching. Again, you can never have enough arms, and I think of Seattle’s five Day 2 picks, they’ll use at least two on pitchers.
You can listen to my full conversation with Bob, Dave and Moore on the selection of Hancock and more at this link or in the player below at the 24:24 mark.