With the 20th pick in the draft, the Mariners have selected right-handed pitcher George Kirby from Elon University in Elon, North Carolina. In mock drafts, Kirby was projected to go 20th by MLB.com, 12th by ESPN and 20th by Baseball America.
The 21-year-old Kirby certainly has the build of your typical front-of-the-rotation starter, standing at 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds. While his fastball velocity is good, most probably wouldn’t consider it to be elite in today’s game — he sits in the low-to-mid 90s and has touched 90 mph. His biggest strengths are his relatively polished repertoire — his slider and curveball are very intriguing, and he has a changeup that should be a usable fourth pitch — and his exceptional command. While he’s not facing spectacular competition pitching in the Colonial Athletic Association, Kirby has been dominant for a second straight season, posting a 2.75 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP with 107 strikeouts and just six walks (!!!) in 14 starts (88 innings). He’s built upon a great sophomore campaign during which he threw for a 2.89 ERA with a 1.27 WHIP, 96 strikeouts, and 27 walks over 15 starts (90 innings). He might not be able to strike out that many hitters as a pro, but the way he’s been able to avoid walking Division I hitters — no matter the conference — should take him places.
Kirby’s age combined with his lack of elite velocity might limit his ceiling in some teams’ eyes, but the fact that he’s at least throwing in the 90s while showing off a couple effective offspeed pitches and displaying superior command means that his chances of being at least a mid-rotation starter at the big-league level are pretty good.