Jonathan Cannon had the luxury of learning from Georgia right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock last season. Cannon, a then-freshman right-hander, was partners with Hancock, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft, for throwing, lifting, and other pitching-related activities, he said.
It was an impactful experience for Cannon. It allowed him to learn from Hancock and see what made him successful, which ultimately gave Cannon ideas on what he could do to improve his pitching ability.
“I got to more or less follow him around and see how he went about his business,” Cannon said. “It was awesome to take stuff from him that I’m now going to apply to my routine and game this year.”
Cannon has made strides on the mound in his first year-and-a-half at Georgia. He received professional interest as a senior at Centennial High School in Georgia in 2019. But he didn’t perform up to expectations throughout his senior year, resulting in him going undrafted in the 2019 draft.
He honored his commitment to Georgia, where he pitched in relief last year. It allowed him to transition to the college game while also watching high-profile pitchers, like Hancock, pitch regularly.
This spring, Cannon will slide into the starting rotation. Now, less than two years after going through the draft process in high school, Cannon is a draft-eligible sophomore and has a chance to be a first-round pick in July’s draft.
“I have made the improvements I have wanted to at Georgia,” Cannon said. “Going through the draft process now, it’s all virtual with meetings. That is definitely weird and different from high school.”
Cannon’s first season at Georgia ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He excelled in a relief role in a small sample size, though. The righty didn’t allow a run while striking out 12 batters and surrendering two walks in 11 1/3 innings.
The right-hander, who’s 6-foot-6, 207 pounds, throws from an easy arm action and delivery while displaying a solid job of throwing strikes.
Cannon’s pitching repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, changeup, slider, and curveball. He mostly throws two-seamers over his four-seam fastball. His fastball sits around 92-96 mph and 2,100 RPMs. He uses his two-seamer to attack hitters low in the zone to induce weak contact. Cannon will throw his four-seamer when he is trying to throw the ball high in the zone.
His changeup is his best secondary pitch. It is a mid-80s offering that features sinking action. Last year, Cannon had more confidence in his slider than his curveball, causing him to change the pitch’s speed to alter the breaking action. But this offseason, Cannon has dedicated significant time to refining his curveball, and he expects it to be a reliable offering this spring.
“The biggest strength in my game right now is my ability to throw multiple pitches for strikes and to control multiple pitches,” Cannon said. “I am willing to throw any of my pitches in any count. There isn’t a count where you can predict what pitch I will throw. I mix my pitches and keep hitters off-balance really well.”
This offseason, Cannon is refining his secondary pitches and developing a routine in preparation for working as a starting pitcher this spring, he said.
Cannon hopes to play a key role on a competitive Georgia team. The Bulldogs hope to make the NCAA tournament for a third consecutive season. They also aspire to advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2008.
“We want to win a national championship, and we have the talent to do it,” Cannon said. “We have a lot of really good freshmen and a lot of guys who have stood out to me in the fall. It was awesome to see them adjust to our situation. I think our pitching staff will be really strong. We also have a lot of really good position players returning for us.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com 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.