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Mariners choose pitchers with first three draft selections

UPDATED: Mon., June 3, 2019, 11:10 p.m.

By Adam Jude Seattle Times

The Mariners, it appears, have found a pitcher-perfect fit for their “Control the Zone” strategy.

With the 20th pick in Monday’s MLB draft, Seattle selected Elon University pitcher George Kirby, who led all NCAA Division I pitchers with a dazzling 17.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year — 107 strikeouts to six walks in 88.1 innings pitched.

“It kind of punches you in the face when you look at it,” Mariners scouting director Scott Hunter said of the strikeout-to-walk ratio. “You actually have to ask if it’s real. And with all of our different technology and our analysts and all the different video stuff – it is (real).”

It’s the second year in a row Seattle has used its first-round pick on a right-handed power arm from a small college. And Hunter said Kirby has comparable qualities to Logan Gilbert, the Mariners’ 2018 first-round pick out of Stetson University whose promising start to his pro career has him on a fast track through the minor leagues.

“Obviously very excited to add a college pitcher we felt was one of the top four or five arms in the country. He fits everything we value here,” Hunter said.

“I don’t want to say George Kirby was the same as Logan Gilbert,” Hunter added, “but some of our information, our data, and some of the different things we’re doing from not only a scouting look but all the different technology – there was a lot of comparisons to Logan. This was a huge team effort.”

Kirby, 21, from Rye, New York, was 8-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 14 starts as a junior for Elon this year, earning the Colonial Athletic Association Pitcher of the Year award.

Kirby, 6-feet-4 and 210 pounds, features a four-pitch repertoire: a fastball that sits 92-94 mph, a slider, a curveball and a changeup.

He initially attracted attention from Devitt Moore, the Mariners’ Northeast scouting supervisor, while pitching in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League last year. Moore called Hunter to tell him about a big right-hander from Elon, and Hunter’s first question was: “All right, where’s Elon?”

Hunter caught up quickly.

“He had his coming-out party in Cape Cod, just like Logan Gilbert did,” Hunter said. “He proved he not only had the ability to compete against better competition, he went up and was pretty dynamic.”

In three seasons at Elon, he went 19-8 with a 3.34 in 45 games (34 starts).

He is expected to report to Everett to begin his career later this month.

“I’m super excited,” Kirby said. “I think my pitch mix works well. I’m ready to compete against the best guys. This is something I’ve been working for for awhile, and I’m just really excited to get the opportunity.”

The Mariners selected left-handed pitcher Brandon Williamson from TCU with their second-round selection (59th overall pick).

Williamson, 21, went 4-5 with a 4.19 ERA (36 ER, 77.1 IP) with 89 strikeouts and 36 walks in 16 starts with TCU this season. He posted 10.36 strikeouts-per-9.0 innings (89 K, 77.1 IP) while allowing only 5 home runs in 77.1 innings pitched (0.58 HR/9.0 IP). The 6-foot-6, 210-pound left-hander is a native of Welcome, Minnesota.

The Mariners used their Competitive Balance Round B selection (76th overall pick) to take

right-handed pitcher Isaiah Campbell from Arkansas.

Campbell, 21, is 11-1 with a 2.27 ERA (26 ER, 103.0 IP) with 108 strikeouts and 19 walks in 16 starts with Arkansas this season.

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