Prospect of the Day: Danny Hultzen, LHP, Seattle Mariners
One year ago, Danny Hultzen was the ace starter for the University of Virginia, preparing for the 2011 draft. Now he's the ace starter for the Double-A Jackson Generals of the Southern League, forming a devastating starting trio with fellow Seattle Mariners top prospects Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
Danny Hultzen was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 10th round in 2008, from high school in Washington, DC. He didn't sign, choosing instead to attend the University of Virginia. He thrived immediately, going 9-1, 2.17 ERA with a 107/28 K/BB in 95 innings as a freshman in 2009; he also played first base and hit .327/.407/.422. He was similarly effective as a sophomore, going 11-1, 2.78 with a 123/24 K/BB in 107 innings.
Entering 2011 as a top prospect for the draft, he met (and exceeded) already lofty expectations by going 12-3, 1.37 with a 165/23 K/BB ratio in 118 innings for the Cavaliers. All told, he went 32-5 with a 2.08 ERA in his college career, with a 395/75 K/BB in 320 innings and just 239 hits allowed. He was a fine hitter, too, with a .314/.400/.431 mark in 392 at-bats; he even stole 18 bases in 19 attempts, testifying to his overall athleticism and instincts for the game.
The Mariners selected Hultzen second-overall in the 2011 draft, giving him a major league contract with a $6,350,000 bonus. Pre-draft rumors indicated that the Mariners were going to select a hitter, but Hultzen has justified their decision thus far, posting a 1.78 ERA with a 56/25 K/BB ratio in 51 innings in Double-A this year, allowing a mere 25 hits for a miniscule .146 average. He's been especially brilliant in his last two outings, posting a 20/2 K/BB and two runs allowed in 13 innings.
Hultzen is a 6-3, 200 pound left-handed hitter and thrower, born November 28, 1989. Clocked as high as 95-96 MPH, he works consistently in the low-90s with superior location. His changeup is excellent, his slider is very good, and his feel for pitching is as impressive as everything else about him. Some scouts quibbled about his arm slot in college, but it hasn't had any sort of apparent negative effect to this point. He has walked a few too many hitters this year, although that hasn't been an issue in his two most recent starts, and I don't think walks will be a long-term problem for him.
Hultzen bore up well under a significant workload in college, and his athleticism should help him stay healthy. We could see him in the majors later this year, and he'll most certainly be in the rotation mix for 2013.