Top 15 Mariners of 2023: George Kirby is #4 as he looks to Improve on Stellar Rookie Season
Many a Mariners fan seem to swoon over George Kirby. You can tell it's the same with many people here, as he comes in ahead of Robbie Ray and Logan Gilbert in the rankings, finishing up as the #4 Mariners player heading into the 2023 season.
The "Middle Child" Kirby was drafted between Logan Gilbert and Emerson Hancock, and you could argue that he had the lowest expectations out of the three. Part of that comes solely from being drafted later than the other two (14 and 6 compared to Kirby's 20).
George Kirby is our #4 Mariners player for the 2023 season
It didn't take long for Kirby to get fans attention. He already had put up an all-time impressive walk rate during his final season at Elon, walking just six hitters in 88.1 IP. After being drafted the Mariners put him in Low-A Everett, where he would throw 23 IP. Wanna take a guess at how many walks he issued?
Zero. Nada. Zilch. Goose Egg.
Yup. 23 IP, zero walks. He even struck out 25 and had just a 2.35 ERA. In the minors in 2021 and 22, he walked hitters at a rate between 1.7 and 2.4 (I'm not counting the 2 innings in Tacoma). Still impressive, but not at the same standard as that final year in college and then Everett in 2019. He was called up to the Mariners in early May last year, and would instantly show the baseball world what true control looked like.
Over his first 22 starts, Kirby would post a BB rate of just 1.15 per 9. That was a league-leading mark (if qualified). He had 7 outings with no walks and 15 with one walk. In the 23rd start he tried to pitch through sickness and walked three, and the last game against the Tigers doesn't count. I still count those as the "hangover games" after the Big Dumper Bombo.
More impressively is that he was good while doing all of this. It wasn't a guy pounding the strike zone and getting hit hard. He actually had a 2.98 ERA through those 22 starts with a FIP of 2.86 and a K rate of 9.4K/9.
I posit all of this as the reasons why so many people are excited to see what will happen during his sophomore year. Sure, there are always worries of the dreaded "sophomore slump", but this isn't something out of the ordinary for Kirby. He's throwing hard, picks things up incredibly quick, and seems to have a special grasp for learning and adapting, one that has been noticed by others in the pen. I can't remember quite where I heard it, but Robbie Ray said something along the lines of, I could spend all winter on a pitch, tell Kirby, and he'd be throwing it better than me by the end of the day.
Mariners fans should be excited by George Kirby. I will advise to scale back a bit, just for safety sake. I want to see a 205 IP, 2.64 ERA season as much as the next guy, but we should probably expect something a bit more realsitic this year. Let's save the Cy Young predictions for next year... you know, when George Kirby leads the way to a 99-63 finish and a Cy Young.