M’s Select Danny Hultzen

Dave · June 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The first stunning pick of the 2011 draft came on the second pick, when the M’s selected LHP Danny Hultzen out of Virginia. In the run-up to the draft, everyone was convinced the M’s were going to take a hitter – either Anthony Rendon, Bubba Starling, or Francisco Lindor. A pitcher wasn’t really on the radar, and the pitchers you generally heard talked about in the spots around them were the UCLA teammates Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, as well as high school right hander Dylan Bundy. Hultzen is generally considered the fourth best pitching prospect in the draft, and that’s not even considering the position players.

That said, pre-draft rankings aren’t worthless, but they’re pretty close. The last time Jack Zduriencik took a guy way before he was expected to go, he took Prince Fielder with the seventh overall pick in 2002. Fielder was expected to go towards the end of the first round, but Jack knew he had one chance to take the guy he really liked, and he took it. It’s obviously worked out pretty well.

So, Jack Zduriencik and his crew have earned some benefit of the doubt. They didn’t make this pick out of ignorance. They did their homework, and they decided Danny Hultzen was their guy. I know a few other baseball executives who would have made the same pick. But, that said, Jack and Tom McNamara just stuck their necks out a bit on this one. They could have drafted the best college hitter in the draft – the type of player that is usually the safest pick of any draft pick. They could have taken the high ceiling high school outfielder or shortstop, both of whom could become superstars down the line. They could have taken Trevor Bauer, who was the best pitcher in college this year.

Instead, they took Hultzen, and are betting he’s going to be better than all of them. They might be right – he’s definitely a top notch pitching prospect. He’s a low-90s lefty with a plus change-up, a decent slider, and terrific command. He’s not a pure stuff guy – he’s a good stuff guy who can also pitch. And he’s a lefty, so Safeco will help him. But, you’re not going to hear too many people project Hultzen as an ace. He’s more likely to be a good pitcher than a great one. He’s probably a safer bet than a guy like Bauer (who has had a heavy workload), but he’s still a pitcher, and pitchers break down a lot. Generally, to take a pitcher this high, you want a guy who can offer a massive return in order to justify the risk.

I wrote this afternoon on FanGraphs that I thought the Pirates were probably making a mistake by taking a college arm over Anthony Rendon. Now that the Mariners have done the same thing, it’s hard to say anything other than that I think they made a mistake too. Bats are just so much safer than arms in general, and Hultzen doesn’t seem all that likely to turn into an ace. But, they’ve seen Rendon’s medicals and I haven’t, so my opinion isn’t nearly as informed as theirs is (even ignoring the huge difference in how much value you should place in our respective opinions), and they could be right in betting on Hultzen.

Let’s hope they are. Jack and Mac have good track records, but they just put those reputations on the line with this pick. They need Hultzen to be awesome, or else we just may hear about this pick for a long time.


72 Responses to “M’s Select Danny Hultzen”

  1. Auggeydog on June 6th, 2011 5:00 pm

    Some of you guys are funny. Is it harder and more expensive to sign a good starting LHP or to find a good 3b that can hit? If this guy turns out to be a Cliff Lee type pitcher and can be in the majors next year would that not be a good pick. If the scouts were afraid of his arm they would be crazy to pick Rendon, they obviuosly were not the only ones to pass on him. Guys are flying off the handle for what we need today and not looking down the line. We are going to have a tough time beating the Rangers this year, Z needs to keep his rebuild in mind and keep on that path.

  2. FetalPuzishun on June 6th, 2011 5:03 pm

    And everyone seems to forget that our pitching in Tacoma is off-the-charts bad

  3. msfanmike on June 6th, 2011 5:04 pm

    Maybe it was as simple as them really liking Hultzen’s UZR

    I think this shit is great. Nobody expected the pick that was made and now speculation ensues as to why he was the choice. Same guys who incorrectly speculated to begin with are going to repeat their speculation efforts as to what it means and why … and probably be wrong about that too. It’s a beautiful thing!

    Keep us guessing Jack.

  4. built2crash on June 6th, 2011 5:10 pm

    FetalPuzishun on June 6th, 2011 5:03 pm

    And everyone seems to forget that our pitching in Tacoma is off-the-charts bad

    Good Point FetalPuzishun!

  5. Westside guy on June 6th, 2011 5:11 pm

    Maybe it was as simple as them really liking Hultzen’s UZR

    Hey, the guy hit over .300 …

  6. bloody_yankees on June 6th, 2011 5:18 pm

    Hey guys, I’ve been a fan of the blog for quite some time and finally overcame my laziness to make an account and talk some baseball!

    In regards to the Hultzen pick, I was initially shocked, but upon digestion and through reading some comments from other users, I’m content with this pick. I think we can expect to see Jack trade one of Bedard or Vargas this summer.

    What I’m really curious about is what the Hultzen pick means for the team’s free agency plans. Perhaps Z intends to splurge on upgrading the offense this winter.

  7. Zero Gravitas on June 6th, 2011 5:36 pm

    Know what makes me feel better about this? The Anthony Rendon ‘highlight’ video on the MLB draft site. Half the video seems to be him rolling around on the ground in agony, then being carted off with the ankle injury looking miserable. Way to accentuate the positive there, MLB.

  8. msfanmike on June 6th, 2011 5:53 pm

    What I’m really curious about is what the Hultzen pick means for the team’s free agency plans. Perhaps Z intends to splurge on upgrading the offense this winter.

    Welcome aboard. There is nothing better to have than a nice stockpile of pitchers because everybody wants them – at some point – through trade or Free Agency. I imagine that your speculation is correct. Jack has some options for maneuvering either via trade or Free Agency to acquire some sticks.

  9. kenshabby on June 6th, 2011 6:02 pm

    I was convinced that they’d end up taking Francisco Lindor. This is a total shock. Mark Buehrle 2.0?

  10. sexymarinersfan on June 6th, 2011 6:02 pm

    Jack is a master when it comes to trading! Yes, even though I don’t agree with the Morrow deal, that has yet to be decided. The Blue Jays certainly aren’t running away with that deal and how long has Morrow been a starter now?

    He seems to have a great feel for talent evaluation and worth when it comes to getting equal value in a deal.

  11. charliebrown on June 6th, 2011 6:53 pm

    And everyone seems to forget that our pitching in Tacoma is off-the-charts bad

    So now the Mariners are making draft picks to improve their AAA team?

    Doesn’t seem like a good way to build a major league club to me.

  12. MrZDevotee on June 6th, 2011 7:06 pm

    Hmmm, so I guess Chone Figgins is feeling pretty good about himself right now… That or he peed himself when he finally relaxed after hearing the pick.

    So why did nobody talk about this Hultzen kid BEFORE the draft? It’s weird, but reading up on him he sounds legit and a pretty close to sure thing to make it to the bigs, perhaps in less than a year.

    Maybe pitchers are like Left Tackles in the NFL… You don’t spend the money it takes to sign the #2 pick on a Tight End (no pun intended Mr. Rendon), when you can get a quality Left Tackle (left handed starter) at the same price.

    If you add $$$ to the equation I think the folks thinking Z has a plan for free agency are probably close to the mark. If it was gonna cost $10-15 million just to SIGN Rendon, that’s some serious money to put towards free agency, on a guy you will KNOW can play in the majors already, with NO hidden medical records.

    Left field and 3B, and we’re set.

    I like it– even IF I wrote earlier that it HAD TO BE RENDON. PERIOD. (To quote Dave Cameron, as he’s told just about everyone at one time or another- “And that’s why you aren’t the general manager of a professional baseball team.”)

  13. thurston24 on June 6th, 2011 7:11 pm

    You know, I know nothing about drafting players like most of us. However, let’s think about GMZ’s last two drafts. We got Franklin, which everyone complained about and it sounds as if we may have struck gold and the next year we got Walker, who has been very impressive so far. Why don’t we give Z the benefit of the doubt, he has earned it. If Hultzen sucks in four years, the complain, but for now we should show patience and acccept that theese guys spends their careers doing this and have shown that they are better than most at it, unless you think that Prince Fielder sucks too. If you think that, I believe that Bill Bavasi has a fan club you can join.

  14. bloody_yankees on June 6th, 2011 7:14 pm

    His point is that we don’t have much in terms of high-level pitching prospects who could immediately step into the rotation in the event of a trade or an injury.

    You can certainly make the claim that we need to draft hitters if we want to be legitimate contenders for the next several years, but I think it’s important to recognize that creating an excess of talent in certain areas can also enhance the club’s ability to improve itself via trade or free agency.

    Now that we’ve got Hultzen apparently waiting on the horizon, trading one of Bedard or Vargas is a much more feasible option for improving our offense if we still think we can sneak into the playoffs come July.

  15. charliebrown on June 6th, 2011 7:15 pm

    If Hultzen sucks in four years, the complain,

    I don’t think Hultzen will stink at all. But you know what will be true even if Hultzen is an all-star?

    The Mariners will still need more offense.

  16. Westside guy on June 6th, 2011 7:19 pm

    Okay, a lot of people here are talking about this as basically “they should have drafted Rendon because Figgins sucks” – that’s “drafting for need”. Jack Z and Tom Macnamara have said, several times, they don’t believe in that – they believe in drafting the best available player. They are gushing about this kid – they really do seem to think he was the best available (and it sounds like they probably preferred him to Cole). And while a lot of analysts expressed surprise, no one seems to think it was a bad pick.

    We need to wait and see how this guy turns out before judging Z on this.

  17. eddie on June 6th, 2011 8:32 pm

    I really like the tone of this post, Dave, and the idea that its your opinion and it’s possible that Jack Z. and the Mariner brass know something you don’t. That kind of admission makes all the difference (at least to me) when it comes to discussing the pros and cons of baseball as we know it.

    The farm teams don’t have no pitching! Tacoma, they got some hitters and no pitchers! Luke French!

  18. mlathrop3 on June 6th, 2011 9:05 pm

    Can’t suck more than Ryan Leaf. I’m down.

  19. The Hamms Bear on June 6th, 2011 9:18 pm

    I can’t believe they picked some guy I’ve never seen over some other guy I’ve never seen!

  20. scraps on June 6th, 2011 11:45 pm

    I can’t believe they picked some guy I’ve never seen over some other guy I’ve never seen!

    There are many people here who need to read this comment and meditate on the truth contained therein.

  21. MrZDevotee on June 7th, 2011 7:30 am


    Can’t suck more than Ryan Leaf. I’m down.

    I’m as big a Coug hater as anybody, but man– dogging on a guy when he’s recovering from brain surgery and about to go through radiation therapy for the remaining tumors in there– that’s COLD!

  22. CJ17098 on June 7th, 2011 7:48 am

    Hultzen apparently said he wants 13M$ to sign and if he forgoes medical school he won’t inherit 20M$ from a family fortune.

    I have read the med school rumor in a couple blogs, but I have yet to see it reported by a mainstream news source. (I don’t mean that as a slight to blogs, I’m just curious of its source and validity, particularly since the UVA website lists him as a History major). For what it’s worth, his older brother works in baseball operations for the Nationals (according to his Facebook page). I don’t know if he would have been offered the same “family fortune” or not.

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