The Georgia Bulldogs had an impressive pair of starting pitchers get selected in this year’s draft, Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox. After getting selected in the 38th round of the 2017 draft, Hancock spent three years at Georgia before being taken sixth overall by the Seattle Mariners this year. Wilcox spent two years at Georgia after being selected in the 37th round of the 2018 draft, and was drafted 80th overall by the San Diego Padres.
In Hancock’s three years at Georgia, he had a 3.47 ERA in 192 innings with 7 H/9, 2.6 BB/9, and 9.7 K/9. In his four 2020 starts, Hancock had a 3.75 ERA in 24 innings with 22 hits allowed, 3 walks, and 34 strikeouts. In Wilcox’s two years at Georgia, he had a 3.38 ERA in 82 and two-thirds innings with 7 H/9, 4.4 BB/9, and 12.5 K/9. After only starting in six of his 19 appearances last year, Wilcox had a spot in the rotation secured for the 2020 season. In his four 2020 starts, he had a very impressive stat line with a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings with 18 hits allowed, just two walks, and 32 strikeouts.
Hancock has four pitches in his arsenal, with his fastball and slider accounting for nearly three quarters of his pitches thrown. The table above shows that Hancock possesses elite velocity and spin. He throws a mid-90s fastball and will top out around 99 mph. The velocity and spin look solid for all four pitches, but there is more information that needs to be known to understand why Hancock was drafted sixth overall.
This table gives some insight on what makes Hancock a first round prospect. He throws his fastball for strikes at an above-average rate, especially in counts with zero strikes. He also appears to throw his curveball for strikes far more than an average pitcher would. Looking at whiff rates also gives insight into how Hancock uses his arsenal. Hancock’s data shows that he excels at generating swings and misses. The curveball appears to be most effective as a two-strike pitch, but his slider and changeup generate far more whiffs than average. The combination of Hancock’s fastball and slider will make him a top prospect. The ability to throw all four pitches at an elite level will make him a future ace.
These two heat maps show that Hancock limits hard contact when his fastball is down in the zone and can put hitters away when it is up by generating more whiffs. This is something that will be very helpful as Hancock works his way through the minor leagues. Many pitchers struggle to put hitters away, but Hancock has the ability to throw his fastball in different locations. Fastball command is a major strength for Hancock, and his offspeed pitches are also very effective.
These heat maps show how Hancock is able to keep his slider down. He gets whiffs from both right-handed and left-handed hitters when he keeps it down and just out of the strike zone. Being able to continue locating the slider in this way will keep Hancock at the top of prospect lists.
While Hancock possesses a four-pitch arsenal, Wilcox uses three pitches. His fastball can get close to 100 mph, and he throws his offspeed pitches hard as well.
Wilcox’s offspeed pitches do a great job of complementing his fastball. He is able to throw both for strikes, and gets whiffs at an impressive rate. Continuing to throw all three pitches for strikes in the minor leagues will help Wilcox turn into a front-line starter for a major league team. Despite the quality of his offspeed pitches and the elite velocity of his fastball, there is some concern with his fastball. Despite having an above-average whiff rate with two strikes, Wilcox threw his fastball for fewer strikes than average. Working on commanding his fastball will enable Wilcox to live up to his potential. The whiff rate on his slider is not as impressive as Hancock’s, but his changeup command appears to be a little better.
The heat maps above show the command Wilcox has with his changeup. He is able to keep it down and generate whiffs. It appears this pitch at times can be left up in the zone. Limiting these instances and commanding his changeup better will help Wilcox reach the majors. Despite the quality of his offspeed pitches and the elite velocity of his fastball, there is some concern with his fastball.
Emerson Hancock and Cole Wilcox were both first-round prospects due to their elite velocity and quality offspeed pitches. Hancock will immediately be a top prospect in the Mariners’ system. Having some power pitching will be a nice complement to the power-hitting prospects Seattle already has. If the Padres are able to sign Wilcox, he will be yet another impact pitching prospect in their system. If he does not sign, he will return to Georgia and have a great chance to be a first round pick next year.