Coming Soon to A Stadium Near You: Danny Hultzen, LHSP, Seattle Mariners

SEATTLE - AUGUST 17: Danny Hultzen, the Seattle Mariners' No. 1 draft choice smiles during an interview after the team announced the signing of him and Brad Miller prior to the game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Safeco Field on August 17, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Every Monday through the rest of the minor league season, I'll be taking a look at a prospect who is either at AA or AAA, and could potentially have an impact on your fantasy season this year. Today's prospect was recently promoted to AAA by his organization, after having a great first half in AA. Our own Craig Goldstein ranked him #4 in our starting pitcher prospect rankings, and Bret Sayre had him as the #13 prospect in the minors right now. I'm speaking of the 2nd overall draft pick from the 2011 draft, Seattle Mariners' LHP Danny Hultzen.

Obviously, he's gotten to AAA already, which could lead him to see a call up to Seattle at some point this year, so what could he do for your fantasy team when he gets here? Let's take a look after the jump...

The Basics

Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 200 lbs.
On 40-man Roster: Yes

His History

Hultzen was drafted out of high school in the 10th round of the 2008 amateur draft, but ended up attending the University of Virginia instead. That turned out to be an excellent decision, as 3 years of pitching for Virginia lead the Mariners to take Hultzen with the second overall pick of the 2011 amateur draft. Hultzen signed a 5 year, $8.5 million contract with the team at the deadline, which also included a bonus of $6.3 million.

Hultzen signed too late to play in 2011, but was sent to AA to start out this year. Talk about a dominant performance - Hultzen went 8-3 with a 1.19 ERA, 79 strikeouts, 32 walks, and a ridiculously low 38 hits allowed in 75 1/3 innings pitched. Not surprisingly, Hultzen was named to the Southern League All-Star team, and was one of the game's starting pitchers. Immediately after appearing in the ASG, Hultzen was promoted to AAA Tacoma.

Hultzen has made two starts so far for AAA Tacoma, and neither has been exactly amazing. In those starts, he has thrown 7 innings, struck out 9, walked 9, and allowed 8 hits.

What's Stopping Him From Contributing Now?

Obviously, you don't want to see the performance in AAA so far that Hultzen has provided, but it is definitely a small sample size. Realistically, I'd like to see Hultzen reduce his walk total somewhat (3.82 per 9 innings in AA) before moving up to the Majors. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can repeat some of his success in limiting hits that he showed in AA.

The biggest thing seems to be the lack of incentive for the Mariners to bring him up. Despite being on the 40-man roster, the Mariners are not competing this season, and there is very little incentive to start his service time clock this season.

Beyond that, Hultzen is an extremely polished starting pitcher who will benefit from pitching half of his games in Safeco Field once he is in the Majors.

What Could He Do When He Is Called Up?

The knock on Hultzen seems to be that his upside isn't as high as a number of other pitching prospects, but that his floor may be the highest of any prospect in the minor leagues. That said, I could see a full-season line for Seattle of around 3.75-3.80 ERA, about 6.5-7 K/9, and a WHIP around 1.25-1.30. A usable starting pitcher for most fantasy owners, but one who is highly unlikely to get you a large amount of wins.

When Is He Likely to Get There?

I think that we are extremely likely to see Hultzen as one of the starting pitchers for the Mariners to start the 2013 season, and with the potential for a late season callup this year once the AAA season

Conclusions:

Hultzen seems to me like he has the potential to be a useful fantasy starting pitcher, somewhere in the range of a #3 or #4 starting pitcher for fantasy, but that value may not be there this season. I think that long-term, he should be a very solid fantasy starter. Just don't assume that he is going to be a pitcher who can lead your fantasy rotation.

Sources:

Cot's Baseball Contracts (link)
Fangraphs (link)
MILB.com (link)

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