The Seattle Mariners have no doubt one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball in ace Felix Hernandez. The Mariners also have solid No. 2 and No. 3 starters in the rotation but it kind of falls of from there. Is it possible top prospect Danny Hultzen could break camp with Seattle this season?
Hultzen was drafted by the Mariners second overall in the 2011 MLB Draft. He signed a Major League contract with the team worth $8.5 million over five years with a $6.35 million signing bonus on top of it. He has only spent one year in the minors but he is considered one of the more polished pitchers to come out of the 2011 class and has already surprised many with his outstanding command of his pitches.
The 23-year-old went 8-3 with a 1.19 earned run average and 79 strikeouts in 13 starts Double-A. His promotion to Triple-A was met with some struggles that will most likely make him mentally tough for the 2013 season. He posted a 1-4 record with a 5.92 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 12 starts. Even though it was only a one start difference between each league, he pitched in 75 1/3 innings in Double-A compared to only 48 2/3 in Triple-A.
The Mariners believe Hultzen is fully capable of becoming the No. 2 or No. 3 starter behind Hernandez in the rotation one day. Although there is no way that happens in 2013, it is definitely possible that he could still become the fourth or fifth starter in the rotation this season with a solid showing in spring training. Seattle currently has several pitchers competing for the last two spots and it is certainly anyone’s opportunity to grab as the team is clearly going to give the job to the two top players regardless of where they stand in the organization.
With that being said, the Mariners are not in the business of rushing top prospects to the big leagues before they are ready. If Hultzen throws well but clearly needs work to gain confidence and improve his repertoire of pitches then Seattle will not hesitate to keep him in Triple-A to start the 2013 season. However, it is something to think about while Seattle gets ready for the regular season.