Danny Hultzen – 6-3, 200 – LHP, Virginia
Tenth Inning Overall Rank: 7
Physical: Lean build, medium-high waist, sturdy trunk, strong legs. Slender frame but good amount of muscle well-distributed. I don’t see much room for growth, but could possibly put on 5 pounds of muscle.
Delivery: Hultzen goes into a unique squat prior to delivery that allows him to use his strong legs to generate velocity. Low 3/4 arm slot and excellent angle create lots of deception. Medium stride but long limbs and late looks make his fastball appear explosive. This is not your typical delivery, but the mechanics are fluid and repeatable and hitters have trouble picking up on the ball until it’s on them. Not the prettiest delivery in the world but it’s effective and relatively clean.
Stuff: Hultzen does not have a standout, plus-plus pitch, but uses above average command/control of a well-rounded and deep arsenal to keep hitters off-balanced. With some additional core strength and a more efficient delivery, Hultzen has bumped his velocity from 88-91 in years past to 90-94 over his junior campaign. The lefty sat in the mid-90s for a stretch this season, which helped bump his draft status considerably, but has reverted to sitting mostly 90-92 and touching 93-95 at times. This is ultimately where I see him sitting in pro ball. While he could add a little muscle to the top half, I don’t see mid-90s velocity holding up on 4 days rest, over 200 innings, against top notch competition. His frame and delivery portend a slight regression in velocity. Still, a low 90s fastball from a deceptive left-handed delivery is a strong weapon.
While the fastball is above average, Hultzen uses his varied arsenal to miss college bats. His go-to secondary at the moment is the slider, which he buries often against right-handed pitchers. He uses a harder variation of the pitch that acts like a cut fastball in on the hands of right-handed hitters as well. The slider does not have plus movement, but the deception in his arm slot and delivery allow the pitch to make both right- and left-handed college hitters look foolish, often inducing swinging misses out of the zone. He locates the pitch pretty well, but he’ll have to learn to use it effectively in and out of the zone at the pro level, as ML hitters will learn to simply lay off the pitch, particularly in two strike counts.
I actually like the potential of his change up a bit more than that of his slider, as I think it’s more a more effective mechanism to disrupt timing than the slider, which is a chase pitch. His change has room for improvement, but it is a solid swing-and-miss pitch at its best, moving away from, rather than in on, righties. This pitch will be instrumental in determining the effectiveness of his fastball.
Hultzen sometimes mixes in a true curve, but has largely abandoned it this season. It may not be a viable ML pitch, and it’s unclear whether he’ll continue to develop it in the minors.
The Skinny: Hultzen is not a power pitcher, and his velo spike will not last in the professional ranks, but he is one of the safest college pitchers in the draft. An intelligent approach, a deep arsenal including three above average pitches, and a very deceptive left-handed delivery make him one of the best bets to stick in a Major League rotation. Hultzen’s statistics and track record are pristine. My only concern going forward is that his swing-and-miss tendencies result largely from deception and the ability to get college hitters to swing and miss at breaking balls out of the zone. More patient hitters with better pitch ID will lay off the dirty sliders in MLB and wait on fastballs in the zone. The excellent angle allows Hultzen to hide the ball through his delivery, however, and it will still be a tough task to pick up pitches in a timely matter regardless of who he’s facing.
With some regression in velocity, Hultzen will probably settle in as a very good mid-rotation starter on a contending team. Should the 92-95 MPH fastball hold up in MLB, countered with an effective changeup and slider, it’s not inconceivable that Hultzen could step into the top of a rotation. Compared to some other arms in the draft, Hultzen’s ceiling may seem lacking, but weighing risk and reward, Hultzen deserves a spot on the top 10. He’s as close to a can’t miss selection as you’ll see, and that has made him incredibly enticing to Scouting Directors of the top 5 organizations in the draft.
Future Projection: #2/3 starter on contending team, #1/2 starter if velo spike holds. One of the highest floors in the draft.