Prospect Q&A: Hultzen on fast track

Second overall pick could make rotation out of Spring Training

By David Heck / Special to | January 16, 2012 5:00 AM

In 2008, Danny Hultzen was selected in the 10th round of the MLB Draft by Arizona. Though many would jump at the chance to join a Major League franchise, Hultzen didn't. Instead, he chose to attend the University of Virginia, where he turned himself into one of the best pitchers -- and overall athletes -- in college baseball.

After posting a 1.37 ERA in 118 innings his junior year, Hultzen was selected with the second overall pick by Seattle in the 2011 Draft. He didn't get a chance to play in the Minors after signing, but he did take part in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League, where he put together a 1.40 ERA in 18 frames. The 22-year-old left-hander also earned a start in the AFL Rising Stars Game, pitching two hitless innings en route to the win.

As a polished college product, Hultzen is expected to take part in Major League Spring Training this year, where he could theoretically earn a spot in the starting rotation. With the Mariners' recent trade of Michael Pineda to the Yankees, Hultzen's chances are starting the year in the bigs only have increased. recently talked with Hultzen about his past few months in professional baseball, what his approach will be in March and what he'd be doing if he wasn't on the diamond. You were drafted second overall this year. Did you expect to go that high, and can you describe what that was like?

Danny Hultzen: It was absolutely crazy. I actually didn't have any real expectation for that Draft. I had an idea that I'd kind of be up there, but I really never thought in a million years I'd go No. 2. It was a crazy experience just because it was so unexpected, but it was great because I was with my family and teammates. I was glad I could share that moment with them. You were a 10th-round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2008. Did you ever consider signing, or were you definitely going to college?

Danny Hultzen: I was definitely going to college. I hadn't even considered playing professional baseball. First of all, I really wanted to get a good education. Second of all, I wanted to get the college experience of growing up, living on your own, becoming more responsible and having that kind of lifestyle under my belt and not miss that experience. It feels like you're missing out on something if you don't go to college, so I was dead-set on going. I know that was the right decision for me. I know that's not the right decision for some people, but it was definitely the right decision for me. You got to throw out the first pitch at a Mariners game in August and spend some time in the TV booth. That must have been a fun introduction to the organization.

Danny Hultzen: That was awesome. It was Brad Miller, the Mariners' second-round pick, and I. We went out there, they showed us around, we got to go on the field and watch batting practice. All the big league guys and all the coaches, everyone with the team was there. It was awesome. We got to see where, if we're lucky, we could end up. It was cool to get a glimpse of that. You're from Maryland, and you went to college in Virginia. Had you spent much time out on the West Coast before that visit?

Danny Hultzen: Never. I've been to California a couple times to visit some family, but I'd never been out [to Seattle], so it was definitely a change of pace. It's a lot different than back home, but it was one of the coolest places I've been. I look in one direction and see mountains, and I look in the other direction and the ocean is right there. You don't find that in Maryland. You got to play in the Arizona Fall League, where your performance earned you the starting job in the Rising Stars Game -- which you won. What was that whole experience like?

Danny Hultzen: It was a good first step in professional baseball. I didn't get a chance to play in the regular year during the summer, but I got sent to play somewhere. It was definitely an honor to play in the Arizona Fall League. It was awesome to play against some really good competition and set the tone for the next couple years, however long this baseball career lasts. It was a good glimpse of the first step in pro baseball.

[The Rising Stars Game] was awesome. I felt honored again, not just to be there but to get the start. It was a cool experience playing against all these guys -- you read about these dudes and see them on TV. I was shocked to be playing against them all of a sudden. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has said you will probably be there in Major League Spring Training. Being your first season, do you think that puts pressure on you or does it feel like you're playing with house money?

Danny Hultzen: I don't really look at it like that at all. I'm out there to do my job and play baseball. Whether it's in big league Spring Training or regular Spring Training, my job is to play my hardest. I don't like to worry about all the noise that comes around that. My job is to play, and that's what I'm going to do. You batted .314 over your college career, and you won the John Olerud Two-Way Player Award in 2011. Are you disappointed you won't be hitting very much as a pro?

Danny Hultzen: I'll definitely miss hitting a lot, but I'm excited to just focus on pitching. It got a little hectic in college trying to do both. I loved it, don't get me wrong, but it'll be nice to focus on pitching. I'm not going to lie, though, I still grab a bat and swing it around to get that feeling again. You were a history major in college. What would you be doing if you weren't playing baseball?

Danny Hultzen: I don't like to think about it too much. I'm pumped I'm still playing baseball. Some of my friends from high school and college buddies are at that point in their lives, finishing up college and going into the real world fighting for jobs. Given the economy, it's definitely really hard to find a job, so I have no idea. I'm just glad that I don't have to think about that. Both your parents have medical backgrounds. Did you ever consider that career path?

Danny Hultzen: I did not. You can ask anybody. When I go to doctor's appointments to get blood drawn, I can't do needles. I can't do any of that stuff. Medical stuff is out for me. I looked on Twitter and didn't see you on there. Do you think you'll make the leap anytime soon?

Danny Hultzen: You know, I might. I'm not really a big social media type, but my friends are on it and it's a fun way to keep in touch with people and kind of be out there in the social world. I'm not sure yet. I haven't pulled the trigger on that one yet.

David Heck is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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