This post marks the final contribution of Mason McRae, our draft specialist, who is going on to bigger and better things. It’s been rewarding to watch his skills as both a writer and an evaluator develop over the past year. We thank him for his hard work and contributions. You can read Mason at his new home, Prospects365.com.
Several days ago, I explained my reasoning for my low ranking of Asa Lacy, citing mechanical-related issues that concern me. One of the half-a-dozen pitchers ranked ahead of Lacy is – once 1-1 favourite – Georgia RHP Emerson Hancock.
When it comes to mechanics, Hancock is clean as could be. He stands in a traditional stance, with his lift foot a foot in front and his body in line with the right-handed batters box. Once he lifts his leg he creates fantastic torque with his hips, and gains ground while staying in line with home plate, getting to release point with an ideal slot, great posture and even better head tilt (or lack thereof). After release, Hancock lets out some of the most advanced ‘stuff’ we’ve seen from a college pitching prospect. Flashing three plus-pitches, the best being his fastball – which creates heavy arm-side-run and spin – his out-pitch being his SL which is just shy of Lacy’s with a Plus-Grade. His change up, a compliment to his CB are his last resorts in dire situations, but the change up flashes plus at times when it fades, some call it a “Bugs Bunny changeup”.
Hancock’s stuff is the best in the class, no questions, he already throws four pitches, all of which are average or better. An adding of a fifth pitch (at the next level), like a cutter could be even more dangerous and a sharpened CB, with emphasis on vertical spin and less east-west spin could help create another pitch that tunnels similarly to his FB/SL.
Hancock’s recent drop on draft boards, and descent into many’s no. 2 pitcher – behind Asa Lacy – has come from shoulder soreness dating back to the end of last year’s season & a disappointing start to the shortened ‘20 season. Hancock’s durability was a massive question heading into the year and I think answered that with his Santa Clara Start, throwing 95 mph on his final pitch of an 86 pitch day.
My excitement for Emerson Hancock can be displayed in my draft report for him, which is below.
“The Cairo (GA) product is in line to become the fifth player drafted out of his high school and hopes to join Willie Harris as one of two to make it to the Show. Coming out of HS, Hancock wasn’t on much radars and like most Freshman Pitchers in the SEC, Hancock struggled in year one at UGA, with a 5.10 ERA, and 1.34 WHIP in 77.2 innings. But there was one number that gave talent evaluators hope, his 75 SO. Thanks to a Plus-SL (that’s now double-plus) he threw 25% of the time, he got hitters to chase 26% of the time, and dropped it in for a strike 58% of the time – all well above average. He then proceeded to put the entire nation on watch, posting a 1.99 ERA/0.84 WHIP Campaign in 90.1 IP as a sophomore. In that season, opposing teams hit .185, getting on only 23.5% of the time with a jaw-dropping .261 SLG% against, as well as an opposing OPS of .497, in the SEC. That is unheard of in this day in age. So like you’d expect, Hancock elbowed himself into 1-1 talks and hasn’t left the chat since. Hancock’s stuff has been compared to numerous elite arms,, and the one name that (reasonably so) comes up most often has been 2009 First Overall Pick, Stephen Strasburg, who’s had himself a substantial career. Emerson’s four-pitch repertoire is hilarious the deeper you dive. His double plus-fastball, in 733 Pitches as a SO & JR has been thrown 50%, for a strike 69%, and chased 26%. His Hard-SL (working anywhere from 82-86, and even hitting 89) has been thrown 28%, for a strike 68%, with a chase-rate of 37.0%. His third best pitch, a “Bugs Bunny” changeup (thrown 182 times) thrown for a strike 57%, with a 33.0% chase-rate. And Oh, there’s more, his fourth pitch – a slightly above average CB – was thrown 9% of the time, 60% for a strike, and a 13.0% chase rate. We live in a reactionary world with Social Media and after a summer of high praise, lots of casual draft followers tuned into Georgia’s opening night match against Richmond. With expectations at an all-time high for the 20-year old, his ‘20 debut ended up as one of the biggest disappointments of an otherwise exciting night. Hancock took a tumble on some boards, most notably Baseball America’s who had him falling to the fifth pick the following day and even had Texas A&M LHP – Asa Lacy going third overall. Following some backlash on the internet, Hancock flipped the bird to everybody the following weekend with a 7.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 SO, 86 Pitch Day. To say he regained alot of faith is an understatement, he sat 94-95 after hitting 60 Pitches and even his 86th and final pitch was 94 on the gun. The ‘durability’ questions – that lingered around his head because of shoulder soreness at the end of the ‘19 spring – had since been put to bed, and Hancock seemed to be as healthy as one could expect from a 20-year-old. Unfortunately, Hancock’s shortened ‘20 season wasn’t what most hoped (3.75 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 12.75 K/9) from the favourite to go 1-1 in the preseason. While he wasn’t lights out like Asa Lacy, he still flashes three plus-pitches, elite command, and clean/repeatable mechanics.”
The possibility of Emerson Hancock falling to the Toronto Blue Jays should excite Jay fans, and first-year amateur director Shane Farrell. How this juggernaut of an amateur prospect has fallen so far is beyond me.