Daniel Alexander Hultzen
- Bats Left, Throws Left
- Height 6' 3", Weight 200 lb.
- School University of Virginia
- High School St. Albans School for Boys
- Debut September 8, 2019
Danny Hultzen was the #2 pick in the 2011 amateur draft but shoulder injuries derailed his progress through the minor leagues, delaying his major league debut until he was almost 30.
Hultzen was 7-1 with a 0.35 ERA as a high school junior in 2007. In 2008, he was 13-0 with a 0.74 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 73 innings. He was named first-team high school All-American by Baseball America, joining Brett DeVall, Taylor Jungmann and Jake Odorizzi as the four pitchers chosen. Due to a strong college commitment, he fell to the 10th round of the 2008 amateur draft before being picked by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
As a freshman at the University of Virginia, Danny was 9-1 with a 2.17 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 95 innings while also batting .327; he also fielded .993 at first base. In a game against Florida State University, he fanned 13, the most by a Virginia freshman since Seth Greisinger in 1994. He led the Atlantic Coast Conference in ERA, was third in strikeouts, had the best average of any ACC freshman, was named ACC Freshman of the Year and won All-Conference honors as a utility man. He was the first Virginia player to win ACC Freshman of the Year. He appeared in the 2009 College World Series. He was 9th in NCAA Division I, third among freshmen and 25th in strikeouts, right ahead of Gerrit Cole (who would be picked one spot ahead of Hultzen in 2011). Baseball America named him as the freshman All-American utility man and third-team All-American utility man, behind Bryce Brentz and Mike McGee. Anthony Rendon (2nd team, 3B) was the only other freshman picked for any of the top 3 Baseball America All-American teams that year. The American Baseball Coaches Association thought even more of him, picking him as first-team All-American utility man (they took Brentz as an outfielder).
In 2010, Hultzen was again dominant (10-1, 2.83, .192 opponent average) though he fell to .281 in reduced action at 1B. He led the ACC in wins, strikeouts (123) and opponent average and ranked second in ERA (behind Chris Hernandez). He became the first Virginia player to be named ACC Pitcher of the Year. He was All-ACC as a pitcher, joining Deck McGuire, Matt Harvey and Hernandez. He tied for 13th in Division I in wins, was 13th in strikeouts and 9th in fewest hits per 9 innings. Baseball America moved him up one spot, to second-team All-American alongside Trevor Bauer, Taylor Jungmann and Matt Purke at starting pitcher. The ABCA again picked him first-team, this time as a pitcher, joining Seth Blair, Drew Pomeranz, Chris Sale and Purke in being so honored. Collegiate Baseball also chose him as a first-team hurler.
That off-season, Hultzen worked on bulking up and working out, adding about 25 pounds, instead of playing for Team USA's college edition. The work paid off as he started 2011 with a 11-3, 1.57 record. He had fanned 148 and walked only 17 in 103 1/3 innings while allowing a .189 average. That put him second in Division I in strikeouts and as his school's career leader in wins (31) and whiffs (378).
After some speculation that he might go #1 overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates (who instead chose Cole), Hultzen went second overall to the Seattle Mariners. The scout was Mike Moriarty. He signed on the final day for draftees to agree with their selecting teams, August 15th, agreeing to a major league deal worth $8.5 million that was actually worth more than that accepted by Cole on the same day. He made his pro debut with the Peoria Javelinas, going 1-0 with a 1.40 ERA in 6 starts in the Arizona Fall League. He made his minor league debut with the 2012 Jackson Generals, putting up an impressive 8-3 record and 1.19 ERA in his first 13 starts. That earned him a promotion to AAA and the Tacoma Rainiers of the Pacific Coast League, but he hit his first road bump as he was just 1-4, 5.92 in 12 starts at the higher level. In 2013, he did well with Tacoma, but his season was interrupted by an injury and a short rehab stint in the Arizona League. In 6 starts in AAA, he was 4-1, 2.05, with 34 K's in 30 2/3 innings. The only thing apparently standing between him and major league success was staying healthy, but he was unable to do that, as shoulder issues completely ruined his career.
He underwent rotator cuff surgery in 2014 missing all of that season. When he came back to Jackson on 2015, he made just 3 starts and pitched 8 innings before being shut down again in mid-May. In 2016, he made a pair of brief appearances with the AZL Mariners in June, totaling just 2 innings of work, before he had to take another break. He underwent another shoulder surgery in July 2016, and when he was unable to pitch at all the next season, the Mariners gave up on him. At least, he took advantage of not being able to pitch to complete his degree at UVA.
In March of 2018, he signed a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs, although he was by now a very long shot to ever pitch in the majors. He only pitched 10 games that season, 8 of them on a rehabilitation assignment with the AZL Cubs 1. He finally put up some decent numbers in 2019, albeit in just 14 games for the AAA Iowa Cubs, where he was 0-1, 1.26 with 3 saves in 14 games and 14 1/3 innings. It was enough to convince the Cubs to give him a look-see when rosters expanded in September and he made his first appearance in the Show on September 9th, tossing a scoreless inning and striking out the side while allowing 1 hit in an 8-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers. He did not give up a run in 6 appearances, totaling 3 1/3 innings, in spite of allowing 4 hits and 2 walks.