30 Prospects in 30 Days: Danny Hultzen – SP – Seattle Mariners
Danny Hultzen was drafted out of high school in the tenth round of the 2009 draft, but he did not sign and went to the University of Virginia. He was drafted again in the first round (2nd overall) of the 2011 draft by the Mariners. Hultzen is a lefty with good size (6’3”, 200 lbs) who offers three above average pitches: fastball, slider and changeup, which may be his best pitch.
Following the 2011 season in which Hultzen had a nice 19 inning debut in rookie ball, he was rated the second-best Seattle prospect and 21st-best prospect in the league by Baseball America and the 30th-best prospect by Keith Law. But after the 2013 season, Hultzen fell to third within the Seattle system and 29th and 66th in BA and Law’s overall ranks.
The reason for the move down the rankings was a complete lack of control once Hultzen got to AAA last year. He started his first full season at AA, skipping A ball altogether, and dominated the level with a 1.19 ERA (2.84 FIP) in 13 starts. That earned him the promotion to AAA where the walks started to pile up. Hultzen walked a brutal 17.9% of batters he faced in AAA over 12 starts.
After a quick read of a few blurbs written recently about Hultzen, it would appear that his mechanics were the problem at AAA. Mike Newman of Fangraphs noted his mechanics were “inconsistent.” Keith Law said he was “cutting himself off more than ever” instead of “landing straight in line to the plate. However, Law did note that a mechanical issue is something that can be fixed.
If Hultzen was simply the victim of a fixable mechanical flaw, he could get the call sooner rather than later. Felix Hernandez, Joe Saunders, Hisashi Iwakuma and Erasmo Ramirez are actually a decent top four, but the fifth spot is likely to go to either Blake Beaven or Hector Noesi. Neither is a good bet to pitch so well that the Mariners won’t be looking for a better option at the back of their rotation. Prior to his stint at AAA, a lot of people thought Hultzen was one of the more major-league ready pitching prospects in the league. If he can bounce back early in 2013, he may be deemed to be major-league ready once again.
Because of the substantial blemish on Hultzen’s record, be cautious about expecting too much from him fantasy-wise in 2013. For dynasty league players he still projects as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy who should be owned in those types of leagues. And AL-only players with any kind of deep bench (five spots or more) wouldn’t be wrong to stash Hultzen. But redraft mixed-leaguers should just be keeping an eye on him for now. Those in deep leagues might want to throw him on the watch list and add him when he gets the call hoping he starts off hot. But there’s likely to be an adjustment period in which he figures out his control at the major league level, so he’s probably best left on the wire until he displays an ability to find the plate consistently at the major league level.
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