Almost one year ago, I wrote the second entry in our draft preview series on an SEC pitcher named Emerson Hancock who at the time projected to be the second overall pick in the draft and the first pitcher off the board. Today that player has been drafted by the Mariners, because life comes at you fast, and a year in draft time is like five years in regular time.
Hancock is the kind of SEC ace in the tradition of Brady Singer, Casey Mize, Alex Faedo, Aaron Nola, etc. that I’ve watched other teams draft in the top 10 picks with no small degree of jealousy over the past few draft cycles, knowing that when the Mariners’ turn came they’d be picking from the George Kirbys and Logan Gilberts and Isaiah Campbells tier—not bad pitchers in any way, but not the frontline aces of a top 10. Now the Mariners have their frontline ace with an SEC pedigree, and although I had visions of a position player with this pick, it’s really exciting to bring a talent like Hancock into the system.
True to Mariners’ recent draft tendencies, Hancock is a polished college pitcher, with a four-pitch mix. His curveball is the pitch with the most room for development, and he has an advanced changeup he can use not so much for strikeouts but to get groundball outs, something we know the Mariners like. His slider is a plus pitch that tunnels well off his fastball, but could use some more distinct shape to really turn into a strikeout weapon.
Emerson Hancock, 95mph Fastball/83mph Slider combo (from my SEC Network feature ). pic.twitter.com/b8xatiDC4V— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 19, 2019
Hancock’s calling card is his fastball, which was 94-96 earlier this spring but can reach 97-99 with plus spin (when he was drafted, ESPN posted a graphic showing the near-identical spin on his fastball and Justin Verlander’s). He’s good at commanding it and can spot it all over the zone but often lets it sink or throws it low in the zone for groundball outs. In the pros, Hancock won’t get away with just blowing it past batters in the middle of the zone and will need to learn to use the top of the zone more consistently and effectively:
20 year old @BaseballUGA RHP Emerson Hancock(@emersonh11) attacks hitters with heavy 95-99 mph velocity while locating his polished mid-80’s slider and an effective curveball. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/87Sng0OKms— G B N (@GeorgiaHardball) May 1, 2020
The knock on Hancock’s fastball is for all the seemingly dominant qualities of his fastball, he doesn’t get as many swinging strikes as you’d like and the pitch can be hittable, occasionally flat. However, that’s something the Mariners are well-equipped to deal with, whether it’s adjusting where Hancock is throwing in the zone or making some other mechanical tweak dreamed up by the well-regarded pitching minds in the organization including Brian DeLunas, Max Weiner, Pete Woodworth, Rob Marcello, and others who are all theoretically sitting at home drooling with anticipation at the thought of working with the 6’4” Hancock. Remember, this is a crew that’s been getting outsized results from undersized pitchers, late-round choices, soft-tossers, and the other merry band of misfits who have populated the Mariners’ pitching ranks. It’s very exciting to think about what they could do with a pitcher of Hancock’s caliber. If you enjoyed watching the leaps forward Logan Gilbert took this past season, you’ll be equally intrigued in watching Hancock’s development next season.