I had a dream about a week ago of an infield starring Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley, and Anthony Rendon.
Seattle Mariners fans everywhere held their breath Monday afternoon, waiting expectantly for the next top talent to add to the likes of Michael Pineda and Dustin Ackley. As expected, Gerrit Cole was taken by Pittsburgh; but surely it would be third baseman Anthony Rendon from Rice selected, widely projected to be a future Gold Glover.
Needless to say, a collective gasp was let out by Mariners Nation when instead of Rendon, the name of lefty pitcher Danny Hultzen from Virgina was called. How could Seattle possibly justify choosing to address arguably their greatest strength, the pitching rotation, forgoing the blatant and dire need for a third baseman?
Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has always had the knack for pulling off eyebrow-raising moves; likewise, he also knows talent when he sees it (see Gutierrez, Franklin and Aardsma, David).
So perhaps it’s not as surprising that Zduriencik found a player he liked, and made sure he got him.
From scouting reports, the 6'3" Hultzen projects as a mid-rotation starter, and with aces Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda at the helm, the expectation for Hultzen is to eventually become a reliable starter in the M’s rotation.
Hultzen’s pitching arsenal consists of four pitches: a four-seam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider. Although his fastball doesn’t carry much velocity, topping out in the low-mid 90’s, he shows great command and location and can make batters miss with the movement it has.
That command is also present in his breaking ball, which has allowed him to make opposing batters look silly at the plate- this season, in 103.1 innings through 15 games, Hultzen has struck out an impressive 148 batters en route to an 11-3 record with a 1.57 ERA. Juxtapose that with his 17 walks, and you’ve got an outstanding prospect with great control of his pitches.
One minor concern that has been raised about Hultzen has been his pitching mechanics- specifically his flat delivery angle. Although it creates stress in his elbow, it does give his pitches some sink and his delivery has been compared to that of Paul Byrd and M’s legend Randy Johnson.
But overall, 21-year-old Danny Hultzen has been the diamond standard of NCAA pitching, earning first-team ACC recognitions and becoming a finalist for the 2011 Golden Spikes award (won a few years ago by Tim Lincecum). He’s also an academic All-American, so the cerebral aspect of pitching could become a strength.
The Mariners brain-trust was likely leery of Rendon’s injury history, or maybe they just didn’t want to deal with Rendon’s agent- Scott Boras.
So maybe we won't get that star-studded infield quite yet, but a 1-2-3 knockout punch of King Felix, Pineda, and Hultzen could be dominating opposing offenses within a few years.