Prospect Report: Can Danny Hultzen Emerge As A Must Use Option In 2012?

The Seattle Mariners showed last season that they were not afraid to push a young starting pitcher into their rotation. They did so with Michael Pineda and reaped plenty of rewards for it (3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 173 K over 171.0 IP). Could they do the same thing with 2011 first round draft choice (second overall) Danny Hultzen?

The lefty didn’t throw a single minor league pitch in 2011, but has quickly made a name for himself in the Arizona Fall League. In six starts (19.1 innings) he posted a 1.40 ERA while allowing just 16 hits and 5 walks, striking out 18.

Hultzen was also impressive in his start at the Rising Stars game. Just look at the report from ESPN’s Keith Law (click here for the article):

“Seattle Mariners left-hander Danny Hultzen was very impressive in two hitless innings, sitting 91-94 and showing more confidence in a solid-average slider at 79-83 that he was throwing at the inner half to right-handed hitters. He was very aggressive in and around the zone with the fastball, and left-handed hitters were clearly uncomfortable against him. The only negative was his changeup, 76-81 mph, which just wasn’t the plus pitch it normally is.”

Drafted out of college (Virginia), could the 22-year old follow the path of Mike Leake and skip the minor leagues altogether? It is hard to imagine, though certainly not impossible. In fact, Danny Knobler (via Twitter) has reported that, “M’s plan to give 1st-round pick Hultzen a shot at rotation in spring training.”

With the stuff that he showed against the best the AFL had to offer and the news that he may actually get an opportunity, he has to be on the radar of fantasy owners in all formats. You don’t want to draw too much from his college numbers, but he did strikeout 395 batters vs. just 75 walks over 320.0 IP. He also went an impressive 32-5 with a 2.08 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.

Again, you have to take the competition into account, but the numbers are eye-popping and explain why he was drafted so highly.

If he does get the opportunity, you couldn’t ask for a much better situation. Safeco Field is definitely a pitcher’s park, which will only help him establish himself.

Obviously you don’t want to put too much stock into him as we are still trying to gather information. His numbers in college and at the AFL are impressive, but they really have to be taken with a grain of salt. While the scouting reports are all glowing, how many pitchers have we heard about being the “next big thing”, only to see them ultimately fall flat on their faces?

There’s a lot of risk involved, but those in keeper or dynasty formats have got to have his name on your draft list. He brings too much potential to excel and, even if he doesn’t break camp with the team, he could ultimately get a shot before long. It’s clear the Mariners believe he isn’t far from making his debut, which just adds to the appeal.

What are your thoughts of Hultzen? How good do you think he could be? Is he someone you would want to invest in?

Make sure to check out our other Prospect Reports:

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