MINNEAPOLIS — With the Everett AquaSox beginning the “short” minor league season, the Mariners announced the signing of four more picks from their 2019 draft class, including their top two picks, right-handed pitcher George Kirby and left-handed pitcher Brandon Williamson, to professional contracts Thursday.
Also signing contracts were 23rd-round selection Caleb Ricca, a shortstop out of Northwestern State, and 25th-round pick Fred Villarreal, right-handed pitcher out of the University of Houston.
All four players are expected to join the AquaSox, who open the season on Friday.
The Mariners selected Kirby with the 20th overall pick of the first round out of Elon University. He signed for the slot value of the pick at $3,242,900.
The 21-year-old posted an 8-2 record with a 2.75 ERA (27 ER, 88.1 IP) in 14 starts as a junior. He struck out a whopping 107 batters with just six walks in 88 1/3 innings. He was named Colonial Athletic Association 2019 Pitcher of the Year, after leading all Division I pitchers with a 17.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio and fewest walks per 9.0 innings (.611). In three seasons at Elon, he went 19-8 with a 3.34 (ERA (89 ER, 240.0 IP) in 45 games, 34 starts.
The Mariners will likely have Kirby make an appearance at T-Mobile Park on the upcoming homestand, which begins Monday, to meet with the media and manager Scott Servais.
Williamson was taken in the second round with the 59th overall pick out of Texas Christian University. At 6-6, he has fastball that touches the mid 90s. He went 4-5 with a 4.19 ERA (36 ER, 77.1 IP) with 89 strikeouts and 36 walks in 16 starts. He signed for $925,000, which is below the slot value of $1,185,500. That money will be used to overpay slot value on a pair of high school pitchers.
Both pitchers are expected to have controlled workloads in their first professional season due to their usage in college.