The Seattle Mariners have completed the process of their 2020 MLB Draft class by signing all six players, including top picks Emerson Hancock and Zach DeLoach. It’s clear at this stage the Mariners didn’t punt parts of the draft as it appeared was plausible after they went down the consensus board with every Day 2 pick … but we’re not here to discuss that just yet.
First, let’s do some firsts, bests and comps for the club’s draft class.
Most Likely All-Star
By many accounts the top pitcher in the draft class and perhaps the safest best among all first-round arms to reach at least a mid-rotation floor. But there’s upside here, too, perhaps all the way to No. 1 starter. He’s built like a frontline arm, has four quality pitches and no significant issues throwing strikes, locating, tunneling the secondaries with the fastball or repeating his delivery.
First Bat to the Majors
The club’s second-round pick projects to hit for some average and showed solid plate skills and contact ability that combine for projectable on-base marks in pro ball.
The bat speed and strength DeLoach possesses suggests more power may be in the offing with the proper swing adjustments, which would only help his case for moving through the minors faster than any other bat in the six-player class.
Keenan, the Mariners’ fourth-round selection, isn’t far behind here, however. The biggest difference between the two overall is the defensive value and athleticism DeLoach brings versus Keenan’s likely limits to first base, but bat vs. bat it wouldn’t surprise anyone if either hitter reached the majors first, though DeLoach has the much better shot at a regular role.
First Arm to the Majors
The No. 6 overall pick pitched in the SEC, amateur baseball’s highest level of competition, and displayed plenty of stuff and enough polish to make this an easy choice considering the rest of the club’s pitching class is upside-based.
Barring injury snags, Hancock should be on a similar path as Gilbert.
The right-hander has touched 99 mph and sits comfortably 93-96 with relative ease and big-league control and command.
It’s not the former Georgia star’s best present secondary pitch but it’s further along than that of CB-round-B pick Connor Phillips, who is a close runner-up.
The best of Hancock’s two breaking balls is his slider, an 82-86 mph late breaker that plays well off his fastball.
The most advanced of Hancock’s offpseed pitches is his mid-80s changeup that has proven to be a swing-and-miss offering. He’s comfortable throwing it a lot and can keep it in the strike zone as an early-count weapon.
Keenan’s raw power sits somewhere above 60-grade, suggesting a full-season max-out in the 30-HR range.
Best Hit Tool
Kaden Polcovich was the club’s third-round pick on the strength of packing a solid hit tool into his equipment bag.
Led by a short, contact-oriented swing he’s learning to operate at higher efficiency rates, Polcovich enters pro ball equipped to continue the trend of high-quality plate appearances. He’s not going to walk a lot, but he’s also not going to strike out much and will find the barrel enough to hit for average. It’s a poor-man’s Nick Madrigal profile.
DeLoach has more upside in this area, but Polcovich has the present advantage.
DeLoach is no burner, but he uses his above-average speed well in the field and on the bases, giving him a slight edge over Polcovich for the honors.
DeLoach edges Taylor Dollard and Polcovich here, thanks to average or better speed and overall physical tools.
Comps, Comps and More Comps
Round 1, No. 6: Hancock, RHP
I’ve gotten some Jake Peavy and James Shields comps for Hancock, and my own profile comp is Jack Flaherty, the current ace of the St. Louis Cardinals. Another one I have heard is Carlos Carrasco. Also: Chris Carpenter, Matt Garza, Jordan Zimmerman.
Keep in mind when folks find comps for players, it’s about the ceiling, both of the prospect and the comp itself, and that comping a prospect to a Hall of Famer just doesn’t happen very often, including right out of the draft before a prospect has a day logged as a pro.
Round 2, No. 43: DeLoach, OF
The most interesting one I heard was Kole Calhoun, not because it was the strongest or even the best, but because of the reason why.
Calhoun, always thought to be a right fielder, lacked the power of corner bat. Despite his 17 homers at Arizona State his junior year, scouts saw the numbers as a product of the bat (this was before the bat change in college baseball) and thought the hit tool was Calhoun’s best bet, but with a chance to get to average or better power — which Calhoun did. That’s DeLoach in 2020, but perhaps with a better tried and true skill set that projects safer than Calhoun’s.
I’ve also heard Denard Span — like DeLoach, an average center field glove with limited present power that relies on hitting, getting on base and solid skills across the board rather than wowing with one tool. DeLoach has the advantage of more raw power he could tap into, however.
Competitive Balance Round B, No. 64: Phillips, RHP
The most promising — and optimistic — comp on Phillips is Rick Porcello. Phillips is quite raw, however, and while he has comparable athleticism there’s probably not as much room to grow as a Porcello comp suggests.
Perhaps my favorite comp is Matt Shoemaker. Phillips tops out in the 93-96 mph range but if he’s to start could settle into the low-90s with average or better command, relying on solid-average secondaries and command, but perhaps with one plus offspeed pitch, which is what Shoemaker has done his entire career as a quality No. 4 starter.
Yes, there are some reliever comps in there — and I don’t really see the Robertson comp in any way — but if Phillips ends up being as valuable as any of these comps it’ll be a good pick by the Mariners.
Round 3, No. 78: Polcovich, UT
I’ve heard some David Eckstein comps, but I think Polcovich is more like Nick Punto, Ryan Theriot or Emilio Bonifacio in terms of skill. Eckstein wasn’t just short, he relied more on instinct and smarts at the plate than Polcovich will have to and the Mariners’ third-rounder has a clear strength and swing value advantage.
Round 4, No. 107: Keenan
Keenan, who likely moves to first base and could see a lot of time at DH as a big leaguers, has average or better hitting tools, including the potential for plus power.
Round 5, No. 137: Dollard, RHP
Dollard has four pitches. The fastball and slider lead the way, followed by his changeup and curveball, in that order. He’ll need more balance to remain a starter but all four project well enough to suggest legitimate promise.
The right-hander served as a reliever for his first two years at Cal Poly but was terrific in four starts in 2020, covering 27 innings and posting a 36-4 K/BB ratio. And before you get all “Cal Poly? They don’t play anybody,” take note: Dollard faced UConn, BYU, Michigan and Baylor this year, and Poly is a strong West Coast program, among the better ones outside the Power 5 conferences.
Dollard drew a lot of uninspiring comps from area scouts, but there were a few worth mentioning — and I really think scouts are putting too much stock in the fact Dollard made just four starts.
Kevin Correia was a fun one to check int.o. Correia pitched for parts of 13 seasons in the majors and at his best was 3-win starter for the San Diego Padres. He made 221 starts and 137 relief appearances. Dollard throws harder, but it’s very much a similar profile — average or above-average fastball (keep in mind Correia began his career in 2003 when the average fastball was in the 89-91 mph range, not 93-94 like it is now.
The best comp I heard was Scott Williamson, a former reliever for the Cincinnati Reds. Dollard is taller and has a better chance to start long-term, but Williamson was athletic and in his prime touched the mid-90s and relied on a slider and changeup. Even the pitch mix is similar.