With the 20th selection in the 2019 MLB Draft, Seattle elected to shore up one of its bigger areas of need: starting pitching. Elon SP George Kirby is going to be a sight for sore eyes for those fans looking to relish in the “C the Z” mantra. Having only walked six (!) batters in 88 innings of work this season, Kirby is excellent at controlling the damage and keeping himself out of trouble.
Indeed, by selecting Kirby, the Mariners have effectively absorbed the power of some of their opponents: good starting pitching.
At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Kirby is an imposing force on the mound. His mid-90’s fastball and strong, but still developing, breaking balls allow him to go right after hitters with an array of different pitches. His stuff, as it stands, is good, not great. He pounds the strike zone and allows hitters to chase pitches off the corners when he’s ahead.
One National League scout familiar with Dipoto thinks the pick is right in line with what the organization is trying to accomplish.
“Classic Jerry,” he said. “George fits right into the mentality. He’s a Jerry guy.”
“I know a lot of teams who were hoping he’d fall a little further,” he said. “There’s not a lot of sure bets in this class, but I think Kirby is one of them. He’ll move as fast as his breaking ball development allows him to.”
The curveball and slider, as well as the changeup, are still a work in progress. All three pitches have shown flashes of plus potential, but they’re inconsistent at best right now and will need fine-tuning — something that should come with time. The slider is considered the most advanced pitch right now, but should not be considered an “out” pitch just yet.
Kirby is thought to have an incredibly clean, repeatable delivery. His mechanics are sound, mitigating future injury risk.
Few pitchers in this draft can match the collegiate career he put together. In three years as an Elon Phoenix, Kirby threw 240 innings, striking out 258 batters and walking just 50. His 4.9 BB% ranks among the best in all of college baseball over that period, and the very best for pitchers who have thrown at least 150 innings. Honored with the CAA Pitcher of the Year award in 2019, Kirby goes down as one of the more decorated pitchers in Elon history.
This past season, Kirby took his game to another level. His 0.89 WHIP topped the ranks in the Colonial Athletic Association, while his 107 strikeouts ranked second. His six walks, obviously, topped the conference as well for pitchers that threw at least 50 innings.
So what does the future look like for Kirby? What can Mariners fans expect from their new prized prospect? A second scout I spoke with spoke highly of Kirby’s ceiling.
“If you had to ask me today, I’d say Mike Fiers,” he said. “Mike Fiers or Kyle Hendricks would be my answer.”
As for now? Seattle’s new starting pitcher probably slots in somewhere between 8 and 10 on their top prospects list depending on who you ask. He will almost certainly head to Everett to begin his career, though it isn’t out of the question to see an advanced college arm like his moved to West Virginia soon thereafter.
We’ll see what happens, but in a few years time, we may be referring to T-Mobile Park as Kirby’s Dream Land, and that would be okay by me.