The 2011 MLB Draft was full of major league talent, Gerrit Cole, George Springer, Francisco Lindor and the best player in baseball Mike Trout, just to name a few. But, with the 2nd overall pick, the Seattle Mariners selected University of Virginia left hander Danny Hultzen.
Hultzen, a junior at the time, previously won the player of the year award for his high school inSt. Albans in 2008 according to a Washington Post article. In his final year at Virginia, he went 11-3 with a 1.57 ERA and had 148ks in 103.1 IP combined with his 17 BBs and a 189. opponents’ batting average. His K/9 for that season was a staggering 12.9. To put that into perspective, Max Scherzer in 2019 has a K/9 of 12.6. In fact, his career at the University of Virginia resulted in a 31-5 record and having the most wins in Virginia baseball history.
With all these stats it was easy to see why the Mariners liked him so much. The year after he was drafted, Hultzen already became the Mariners number two prospect behind Taijuan Walker and the eighth best in all of baseball behind names likeJurickson Profar, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer.
Now on to Pro Ball…
His first season resulted in playing for two teams and going 9-7 with a 3.05 ERA with 136ks in 124 IP, good for a 9.9 K/9. Fast-forward to 2013, Hultzen is still the Mariners’ number two prospect but in the ranking of top 100 prospects, he dropped to number 24 overall. Granted, new faces such as Oscar Taveras, Archie Bradley and Carlos Correa were added to the top 10.
In the same year, Hultzen had surgery on his throwing shoulder, so he only pitched in 30.2 Innings and had a 4-1 record with a 2.05 ERA. Now by 2014, he’s no longer on the top 100 and has dropped to number 13 on the Mariners top prospect list.
That shoulder surgery he had earlier? It cost him all of 2014 and cost him a chance of reviving his career and showing he can be healthy. By 2015 he’s off both lists according to Prospect Pipeline on mlb.com. The fatefulday came on November 20th 2015 as Jerry Dipoto announced that Hultzen was designated for assignment and cut from the Mariners. A year after being released, Hultzen had his second major shoulder surgery in 2016 and had to miss even more time.
Currently as of 2019, the Cubs have given Hultzen a chance to work his way to the majors on a minor league deal. He just got activated in Triple-A Iowa and he’s one step away from capturing his dream.
So why should you keep your tabs on him?
Well, he’s finally looking healthy and he’s still relatively young (29 years old). His Fastball touches 97 and averages about 94-95 mph and a slider at 82-86 mph. He also displays a sinker with about the same velocity as his four seamer and a changeup at 80 to 81 mph. Hultzen creates deception with his delivery and hides the ball well. This season, Hultzen in a very small sample size in Triple-A has pitched in 5 games (4.2 IP) and 1.93 ERA mixing all that with 8 Ks for a K/9 of 15.43 at the time that this is being written.
The Wrap up…
As we see the lefty specialist starting to fade away with the evolution of all these dominant relievers, from the movement specialists of Brad Hand and Kenly Jansen to the flamethrowers of Aroldis Chapman and Felipe Fazquez, mixed with the MLB’s new rule changes coming in the next couple years, Danny Hultzen is a major outlier – a failed starter that could be a valuable piece out of the bullpen. We’ve seen it a lot throughout history with players like Trevor Hoffman, Joe Nathan, Rollie Fingers and the best closer in baseball history, Mariano Rivera.
If Danny Hultzen remains healthy, his stuff is legit. He could turn into a lefty killer for the Cubs. His splits so far this season are 0.00 ERA against lefties and a 3.38 against righties. But a very amazing stat is his eight strikeouts – so far five have been against righties, so he can be versatile and come in against all hitters much like Terry Francona did with Andrew Miller in the 2016 playoffs.
After multiple surgeries, years of failure and losing his top prospect status, Danny Hultzen has been looked upon as a “bust” not only in the Mariners organization but also around the MLB. Hultzen has shown in the past how good of a pitcher he is, and the stats don’t lie. The forgotten prospect is now on his way to achieving his goal.I’m here for it and you should be too.