As we continue our countdown of the 5 worst decisions in Mariners history, one thing is clear: the Mariners have had some questionable draft picks over the years. Today, we look at one of the worst in franchise history, and all let out a collective sigh.
Yesterday, we broke down a truly terrible trade, the infamous Heathcliff Slocumb for Jason Varitek and Derek Lowe deal. A god awful deal, wrapped in faulty logic, could only be topped by seriously boneheaded decisions, including that made at the top of the 2011 MLB Draft.
The Seattle Mariners held the second pick of the draft, after finishing 2010 with a dismal 61-101 record. The consensus #2 prospect in the draft was a 3rd baseman from Rice University named Anthony Rendon. It was the industry expectation that Seattle would select Rendon, a fast rising bat with good upside.
Also available with the second pick were future All-Stars Francisco Lindor, Sonny Gray, George Springer, and Jose Fernandez (sad face emoji). Even Javier Baez, the defensive ace for the Chicago Cubs went 9th that draft.
Instead, the Mariners went ultra-safe and selected Danny Hultzen, the left-handed pitcher from the University of Virginia. While most scouts agreed Hultzen would be a big league pitcher, nobody seemed to think he would be more than a #3 starter in the big leagues.
In addition, there were some concerns that Hultzen did not want to play professional baseball, instead preferring to attend law school. However, Hultzen did sign with the Mariners. In fact, he signed a major league contract of 5 years worth $8.5 million. The highly irregular deal forced Hultzen onto the 40 man roster.
Considered to be a fast rising prospect, Hultzen did appear in the 2012 Futures Game. He was on track to join Seattle midway through the 2013 season. Then, the injury train hit him hard. Hultzen missed most of the 2013 season with injuries. He missed all of the 2014 season recovering from major shoulder surgery.
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Hultzen has yet to throw a pitch in the big leagues, and will attempt one final comeback in 2018. But what makes Danny Hultzen the 4th biggest mistake in Mariners history. A combination of multiple factors.
Obviously, the biggest factor is the slew of major names Seattle passed on, most notably Anthony Rendon. Remember, Rendon was the consensus pick by the industry, and Jack Zduriencik took a “safer route” instead. All Anthony Rendon has done is finish Top 6 in MVP voting twice.
In addition, Hultzen’s bad luck plays heavily into the ranking. Originally billed as the ace of Seattle’s future “Big 3” of Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton, he still has not thrown a pitch in MLB.
Sometimes, a team does everything right and whiffs. Often times, teams are rewarded for making smart decisions. The Mariners chose poorly in the 2011 MLB Draft. Going after a high floor, low ceiling player with the second pick of the draft isn’t wise. Zduriencik tried to outsmart the room in 2011, and the Mariners paid the price.