Ethan Hankins. (Shotgun Spratling)


Elite Prospects Dazzle At PG All-American


SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Not long ago, Cumming (Ga.) Forsyth Central righthander Ethan Hankins was concerned about facing elite hitters. The then-underclassman could run his fastball up to 93 mph, but knew that the sluggers he was matching up against were not fazed by 90 plus mph pitches.

From that fear grew what has become Hankins’ calling card.

“I figured that I was going to have to mess with their timing a little bit, so I started messing it up by pausing every here and there.”

Hankins already wanted to work quick when he was on the mound. He took a quick rocker step and exploded his left leg up and fired home. Off of that, he began to sometimes slide step from the windup. Other times he would hang his leg as he paused at the top of his delivery. Hankins tinkered with the different rhythms and tempos.

“I picked it up and I had a lot of success in the [2016] East Coast Pro and throughout the fall ball and it stuck with me ever since,” Hankins said. “I’ve gotten progressively more consistent with that and I was able to keep my mechanics as I worked on it through the offseason and this spring.”

Hankins’ mix-and-match mastery was on full display on Sunday at the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park in San Diego. The 6’6”, fauxhawk-rocking righty quickly went from set to load to delivery and then pumped cheese by hitters. Now pitching at 93-96 (and up to 97 mph at other events), you’d be hard pressed to find any concern from Hankins about who steps in the box.

In his PGAAC inning, Hankins struck out two, throwing a 95-mph fastball by Noah Naylor and then getting fellow Vanderbilt commit Nick Northcut swinging at a curveball at 74. Hankins threw the curve over the inside half, but it was just too dirty to hit after a leg hang pause to try to throw off Northcut’s timing.

The pauses are rare though. Hankins could eventually be the MLB’s answer to pace-of-play concerns. He likes to get the ball and go. Though it was rarely a concern during his high school season, he can on occasion get sped up too much and get inconsistent with his arm slot. That seemed to be the case when he walked a batter before getting in on the hands of Joseph Gray Jr. to get an easy grounder to third base for his final out.

It was a strong outing, but Hankins walked off the mound with a disappointed look. He had thrown 17 pitches with two strikeouts, but walking a batter wasn’t acceptable.

“I hate walking people. That’s my biggest pet peeve.”

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