The Mariners have one of the most robust farm systems in Major League Baseball. This is in large part to their scouting and player development staffs. They have taken several players that have had their value rise in recent years. One of these such players is right-handed pitcher George Kirby. The Mariners selected George Kirby with the 20th overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. Kirby was known as a command first pitcher, which is a great skill, but not necessarily a future star.
That perception of George Kirby has changed a lot since he was drafted. In 2019, Kirby pitched very little in Everett, tallying just 23 innings in 2019. Kirby was famous for not walking a single batter in those 23 innings in Everett that summer. As did everyone, Kirby missed all of 2020 due to their being no minor league season due to the pandemic.
In 2021, Kirby started the year at now advanced A ball Everett. He was not there for too long, but when he was there, he was dominant. Kirby struck out 52 batters in 41 and 2/3 innings. Kirby was promoted to AA Arkansas in early August where he continued to excel where he had a sub 3 ERA and a strikeout to walk ratio of 28 to 7 in 26 innings. The biggest thing about George Kirby’s 2021 season was not his statistical performances, it was the uptick in his stuff.
As Baseball America tweeted, Kirby was pumping up to 102 mph this season on his fastball. The biggest difference from when Kirby was drafted until now is that now he has very overpowering stuff to go with his great command. The Mariners were drawn to Kirby’s command in the 2019 draft. His fastball was in the low 90s when he was drafted, now it is in the upper 90s and can go above 100. As Baseball America also said, Kirby has a good slider that is his best secondary pitch.
Joe Doyle of Prospects Live shared with me some thoughts on George Kirby
"“Kirby has done a fantastic job improving his overall stuff since getting drafted. He was a low-90s command-over-stuff guy in 2019. Since then, he’s brushed triple digits and developed an above average breaking ball and legitimate feel for a changeup. Kirby has a prototype body and a reasonably clean delivery that should last over the rigors of a pro season. He’s just really turned himself into the ceiling of what scouts saw in 2019, and that’s not the case with everyone.”"
As Joe Doyle said, he has developed really well in the Mariners system. Kirby has changed his ceiling greatly with his velocity and breaking balls improving. Kirby needs to throw more innings in 2022 after only throwing 67 innings in 2021. His growth is a huge positive for Mariners fans, and George Kirby should be a really fun pitcher to watch develop as he nears his big league arrival date.
Below is George Kirby talking about his changeup that Joe Doyle said he has “legitimate feel” for.
The Mariners have done a really good job of getting more out of players than people first thought, especially pitchers. The development in the organization is a really good sign. The Mariners are not only making high round picks like George Kirby better, but they were able to turn Paul Sewald into a dominant reliever. This is a great trend for the long term potential of the Mariners.