When you’re the second man picked in the major league amateur draft, as left-handed pitcher Dan Hultzen was last June, the baseball world has already taken notice of your talent.
Expected to challenge for a spot in the Seattle Mariners rotation next spring, Hultzen has added to his resume with his performance in the Arizona Fall League, where managers and coaches named him to the Top Prospects list after dominating ther league.
Hultzen, who turns 23 next week, went 1-0 with a 1.40 earned run average, holding opponents to a .225 average – .118 for left-handed hitters – while striking out 18 in 19 1/3 innings.
Is he ready for the big leagues?
Like rookie Michael Pineda last spring, Hultzen certainly appears ready to force the issue. While he would benefit from experience in AAA, it’s possible he may not need it, and the Mariners could certainly use him.
Heading into spring training, the Seattle rotation has three spots locked down - Felix Hernandez, Pineda and lefty Jason Vargas. Beyond that, they have candidates: youngsters like Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush and perhaps Tom Wilhelmsen, and true rookies like Hultzen, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton.
General manager Jack Zduriencik has yet to begin his annual roster shape-shifting, and it’s possible that list could change dramatically. But today, Hultzen looks like a viable candidate not to be Seattle’s fifth starter in 2012 but it’s fourth.