While Emerson Hancock won’t be firing any pitches for the Mariners in a game this year, he still comes in ahead of Logan Gilbert in our ranks, but why? After all, Gilbert is basically big league ready and was simply incredible in his one full season of professional baseball. Hancock is talented, but he hasn’t thrown a pitch in pro baseball, so shouldn’t Gilbert have the edge?
It sounds like a good argument, but it actually isn’t. Think about it like this: Kendall Graveman has years of MLB experience. Would you trade him for Emerson Hancock? Yes. Experience doesn’t mean better, it literally just means one party has more experience.
Now, that is clearly an extreme example. Both Gilbert and Hancock are better than Graveman. But putting significant weight on Gilbert’s one additional year of pro experience is just a flawed way to go about scouting these two prospects. When you actually compare them side by side, Hancock comes out ahead in most categories.
Athletically, this isn’t a debate. Hancock is the superior athlete, which gives him a better chance to repeat his delivery and maintain both velocity and control late into games. The radar gun shows the athletic difference. Gilbert mostly sat 92-94 MPH in 2019 and could occasionally rush it up to 97 MPH. Hancock sits 93-95 and has touched 99 MPH and has maintained his velo deep into outings for Georgia the past two years.
Aside from velocity, Hancock has better stuff than Gilbert currently, though it is close. Both of Hancock’s breaking balls are at least average and flash plus and his changeup is a plus offering. The changeup is the biggest difference between the two. Gilbert has good stuff as well, but doesn’t have an off-speed pitch as good as Hancock’s changeup.
Hancock is a superior athlete with slightly superior stuff. His ceiling is higher than Gilbert’s current #2 tag and their floors are comparable as a #4 starter. Better stuff. Better athlete. Higher upside. Same floor. It seems pretty cut and dry. But while I would bet Hancock over Gilbert, the difference isn’t massive. And if the extra year of experience means that much to you, go ahead and take Gilbert.
Thankfully for Mariners fans, you don’t actually have to choose. Instead, you can enjoy the fact that both are likely going to anchor a Mariners pitching staff together sometime in the next 3 years. Gilbert will get there first, maybe even as early as August, but Hancock won’t be that far behind. Comparing two great prospects is fun and not something we got to do much before Seattle finally pulled the trigger on the rebuild. So celebrate M’s fans. Good times are coming sooner than you think.