Danny Hultzen’s AFL Debut
I feel like I should say something about the two great NLDS games tonight, but I’m afraid I only caught the highlights. In the Arizona/Milwaukee game, they showed two plays, back to back – two late inning, crucial at bats by Willie Bloomquist and Yuni Betancourt. I’m old enough to remember Francisco Cabrera’s walk-off, but… really? I’ll just acknowlege that baseball is unpredictable and weird, and move on to something of interest to M’s fans beyond schadenfreude: Danny Hultzen’s pro debut.
Hultzen pitched two innings today for the Peoria Javelinas, so we don’t have much to go on. He threw 42 pitches, 31 fastballs, to just 9 hitters. In his 2 IP, he gave up 1 run on 3 hits, with 1 BB and 2 Ks, but he also added in 2 wild pitches (his run scored on his second consecutive wild pitch). It’s an odd line, honestly. As impatient as we all are for good news about M’s prospects, we’ll just have to wait and see how he develops with Peoria.
As he faced Surprise, we’ve got some pitch fx data to work with. Again, it’s two innings, it’s 42 pitches, and I’m not sure about the calibration of the cameras, but it’s something. Given Hultzen’s development over his college career, I think this’d be one of the more anticipated debuts in recent M’s history. Hultzen’s velocity spiked in his senior year, taking him from an 89-90 control lefty to a mid-90s behemoth who struck out 165 in just 118 innings. So… what’d he throw today? Pitch fx had him at 92 mph on average, getting as high as 93.8mph on a 2nd inning pitch. He got 6 swinging strikes (including a foul tip caught by the catcher), 2 on sliders, 3 on fastballs and 1 on a change-up.
He came in with the reputation for having a great change with a developing slider/slurve, and he certainly seemed more confident in the change – he threw it 8 times, compared to only 3 sliders. But he got swinging strikes (and strike-outs) on two of those sliders (the third was a foul ball), compared to one swinging strike with the change (he gave up a pop-up double on another change). Again, there’s not enough here to alter what we knew from the scouting report, so we can just say that his slider/slurve has significant break – it’s got significant downward and glove-side break. His change-ups broke into two groups – some with significant sink, and some without. Jeff Sullivan mentioned the same thing here. This’ll be something to watch for later; they could be two separate pitches, though I’m not sure what they’d be.
Some might worry that he wasn’t throwing the 95 he hit with some consistency (apparently) at Virginia this year. Obviously, we just don’t have enough information to really say with certainty what his stuff’s going to be like in 2012. It was a short outing, but it was also his first after a long layoff. It was in Arizona (and not the Midwest league in April), but as I mentioned above, we don’t know much about the pitch fx calibration. I’d just point out that the opposing starter, Texas prospect Neil Ramirez, looked about a tick slower than he did when he faced the M’s in spring training (when he gave up a HR on a 96mph fastball to Steven Baron of all people). So we’ll have to wait and see. It’s frustrating that he wasn’t touching 97, that his command wasn’t great, and that he gave up a run on a wild pitch, but he flashed some swing-and-miss stuff as well.