NEW YORK — Emerson Hancock will make his much-anticipated 2022 debut for Double-A Arkansas on Tuesday, Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said on Friday at Citi Field, where the Mariners opened a three-game series.
Last season, he was shut down with a right shoulder impingement in late June and then for the season in late August. Then just before Spring Training this year, he suffered a lat strain during a Minor League minicamp that has prevented him from pitching in a game yet in 2022.
It’s been an unfortunate break for the former University of Georgia standout and his development, but encouraging that he’s returning to the mound. He was selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, but did not pitch competitively that year due to the pandemic-impacted cancelation of the Minors season. He has impressed when healthy, with a 2.62 ERA last season in the Minors while holding opposing hitters to a .184/.268/.247 (.515 OPS) slash line.
But he’s made just 12 professional starts and tossed 44 2/3 innings, and a big jump from that mark this season is unlikely given how carefully the Mariners monitor innings accumulation.
For those reasons, he’s further behind the rest of Seattle’s top-end pitching prospects, such as Levi Stoudt, Matt Brash — who broke camp with the big league team but has since been optioned to Triple-A Tacoma — and George Kirby, who took Brash’s spot in the rotation and will make his second career start for Seattle on Saturday.