Danny Hultzen is Our Number One Pick
Leading up to the draft, I spent the past couple of days researching hitters. Everyone told me that the Mariners were going to draft a hitter. It was a foregone conclusion. I sat at my computer and wrote up three different draft posts, one for Rendon, one for Starling, and one for Lindor. The way I figured it, any of these options would be more or less satisfactory: Rendon solves the third base issues, Lindor shores up the defense all around and gets some power, and Starling, though risky, had a lot of power potential and would likely play a good centerfield. Any of these options on the table, and we’d be in pretty good shape. Hell, Dave and I both had “M’s Draft Anthony Rendon” posts in the draft queue here. It was practically a foregone conclusion once the Pirates did their thing.
Now this happens. If you remember my post from last week, you’ll remember that Hultzen was the guy I thought was least likely to go to the M’s. He was good and all, but not sexy in the ways that a lot of number two picks should be. He’s low-90s with the fastball (some say he’s sitting mid-90s at times) and commands a strong three-pitch mix. The stuff has had people project him more as a #2 starter than anything else.
I think where Hultzen may have separated himself is that, in addition to being relatively safe, he gets rave reviews for the work ethic and mindset that put him around the top of his class in this draft. One has to think that if the M’s are buying into him as a legitimate number two pick, they’re also buying into him as a #2 pitcher and maybe then some. It’s easy to draft a guy like Rendon or Starling when the need is there and it’s a position of weakness in both the major and minor leagues. It’s really tough to justify picking a pitcher with your number one if you already have a killer rotation and a few other interesting hurlers on the way in Paxton, Walker, Erasmo Ramirez, and Robles. The Mariners scouting department had to have been supremely confident in Hultzen’s abilities in order to pick him where they did.
Right now, we’re all stunned to the point where we don’t really know how to rationalize it. If I were writing purely from a gut reaction here, the results would be nearly unintelligible. I was practically livid when the pick was first announced, simply because it was so hard for me to figure out where Hultzen fits into the Mariners scheme. But the M’s probably have a better sense of that than I do, and there’s no backsies on this kind of thing. I hope that the fear I had that, regardless of who we picked, the fans would be grousing three years from now about us not picking X obvious player, won’t end up being extra justified in this case.