Emerson Hancock was one of the best prep prospects in the state of Georgia as a high school senior in 2017. He likely would have been an early-round selection in the 2017 MLB draft, but his strong commitment to Georgia caused major league teams to pass on him.
Hancock wanted to play collegiately at Georgia and that decision has paid off for him the last three years. He’s thrived at the collegiate level and has developed into one of the top prospects for June’s draft.
Professional scouts consider the right-handed hurler as the second-best pitcher in this year’s draft class and a potential top-five pick. Hancock might surpass Jeff Pyburn as the highest draft pick in Georgia history, as Pyburn was the fifth overall pick in 1980.
Hancock has talked with major league teams via video conference calls since the spring season ended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the draft being about two weeks away, Hancock is trying to make the best out of the extra downtime at his family’s home in Cairo, Georgia.
“It’s something you think about,” said Hancock on the draft. “But rarely for me, especially during this time (of the year), you don’t get a lot of family time. I’ve been enjoying that. I’ve enjoyed going to throw and working out and playing golf when I can. I’m just trying to enjoy this downtime. You think about it, but at the end of the day it’s out of my control.”
Instead of talking about the draft, Hancock wishes he was still playing right now. He believes Georgia had the talent and experience to make it back to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time since 2008.
Hancock was a major reason for Georgia’s 14-4 start to this season. He made four starts and posted a 2.75 ERA with a team-high 34 strikeouts and three walks allowed in 24 innings.
This season’s results were a snapshot of Hancock’s tenure at Georgia. He started immediately as a freshman and posted a 5.10 ERA in 15 starts in 2018. He showed encouraging improvement last year, posting a 1.99 ERA in 14 starts.
In three years at Georgia, Hancock posted a 3.47 ERA with 206 strikeouts and 55 walks allowed in 192 innings.
Hancock is a 6-foot-4, 213-pound right-hander who has a clean delivery and throws a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup out of a three-quarters arm slot. His fastball is an above-average offering and sits in the mid-90s and hits 99 mph.
His secondary pitches also are quality offerings with his mid-80s slider his best off-speed pitch. His changeup is a consistent pitch that generates swings and misses.
“I think I’ve developed a lot at Georgia,” Hancock said. “I have found out who I am and the stakes I’m willing to go to be successful. A lot of that has to do with the people I’ve been surrounded by. I’ve been around some of the best coaches in the country.”
Hancock has the attributes, talent and potential pro scouts seek in a top draft pick. He also has all the makings of being a frontline starter in the pro ranks.
Although his junior season didn’t end with him hoisting the College World Series trophy as he had hoped, Hancock is appreciative of his time at Georgia and the people that have helped him develop into one of the top prospects in this year’s draft class.
“It’s times like this where you really think about the people who have helped you along your way and journey,” Hancock said. “It’s the times like this where you really appreciate the sacrifices my parents have made. Also so many people at Georgia and in my family that I am just really grateful and thankful for.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.