The competition on the Mariners farm will be fierce to replace Robbie Ray in the starting pitching rotation. Emerson Hancock would appear to be the front-runner to replace Ray in the rotation. He has been good in all but one of his starts in AA Arkansas.
Hancock just threw five innings in a game for the first time last night. His strikeout numbers are solid though. He currently has 26 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched, which is 13.8 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. If you take out his one poor start against the Frisco RoughRiders (where Hancock allowed nine runs), he has a 0.64 ERA across his other three starts. If Hancock can start going deeper into games, his odds of being promoted will increase.
The Mariners will likely be careful with Hancock since he struggled with shoulder issues in 2022. Unfortunately, the M’s could really use the services of their first pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Chris Flexen has struggled mightily in his first four starts in 2023 posting an 8.86 ERA.
Hancock is the most talented young arm in Seattle’s farm system right now. Bryce Miller was the likeliest candidate to make the jump to the pros going into the season, but he has struggled early in his first four starts in AA Arkansas. Taylor Dollard is another possibility, but he has been woeful in AAA Tacoma with a 7.56 ERA in three starts. Bryan Woo has the best numbers right now of the young pitching prospects with a 2.25 ERA in three starts. However, Woo lacks the minor league innings to be considered a serious contender.
Barring a trade made by Jerry Dipoto, expect Emerson Hancock to be the leader among the top young pitching prospects in the Mariners farm system for Ray’s rotation spot. Dipoto will likely give Hancock time to develop, as the urgency to add firepower to the fifth spot in the rotation increases. With a little more time and longer starts, expect Emerson Hancock to be a potential Robbie Ray replacement.