Mariners Surprise Industry, Take Hultzen No. 2

SEATTLE—The Mariners surprised everybody with their choice for the second player taken in the draft.

Included in that group is the man who went No. 2, Virginia lefthander Danny Hultzen. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound 21-year-old still is pitching for the Cavaliers, who have advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals and will play UC Irvine this weekend.

It's not that Hultzen wasn't expected to go in the first 10 picks or so, it's just that most draft savants thought another pitcher or two might go in front of him.

"I was completely surprised," Hultzen said.

He throws hard, having touched 96 mph while sitting at 92-94, but there were other pitchers available in the draft who throw harder.

However, some scouts believe Hultzen, who was the No. 1 starter for all three of his seasons with Virginia, could be the closest to the big leagues of all the college pitchers available.

"I heard somebody talk about having Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and this kid in the Seattle rotation at the same time," scouting director Tom McNamara said. "That brought a smile to my face. I like this kid a lot. He has great makeup."

McNamara saw Hultzen pitch four times this year, and he brought general manager Jack Zduriencik to an April game pitting Virginia against Boston College on a night the Mariners were playing the Red Sox down the road. Zduriencik said he came away from that game "very impressed."

"There are a lot of kids with great arms who don't have what it takes to pitch at the top of the rotation," Zduriencik said. "There are intangibles involved—character, temperament, stuff like that. This kid has that. We think he will be a very nice major league pitcher."

Hultzen said that while he was surprised to go as high as he did, he was delighted with the pick. Ken Griffey Jr. was his favorite player as a kid, saying, "I think my first baseball cap ever was a Mariners cap."

Asked for a scouting report on himself, Hultzen said, "I'm a lefthanded pitcher who just goes out there and competes, no matter who I'm facing. I try to make the hitter beat me and not beat myself."