What If… The M’s Took Anyone Other Than Danny Hultzen?
By Jason Smarr
The 2011 MLB Draft is a memorable draft for the majority of MLB franchises. Most of the other teams nailed their #1 pick in the first round and did extremely well with the rest of their picks. As seen in the review of the 2011 MLB Draft, the Seattle Mariners used their first pick (#2) to select Danny Hultzen, a left-handed pitcher from the University of Virginia. Hultzen was a touted prospect who was projected to be a quality MLB pitcher in the near future. Unfortunately, as we all know, that never came to fruition.
Hultzen never found his way to the majors with the Mariners, only making it to AAA in his 5 years with the organization. It wasn’t until 2019 that he made his major league debut… with the Chicago Cubs. With his MLB debut coming eight years after being drafted (and only lasting 3.1 innings), it definitely solidifies Hultzen as a bust. Many diehard Mariner fans have been wondering this for years:
What If The Mariners Picked Anyone Other Than Danny Hultzen?
Well to start, I went and looked at the 2011 Amateur Draft on Baseball Reference. The first paragraph I read on the page made me laugh out loud.
"In retrospect, the 2011 draft was one of the strongest ever, as the first round produced a large number of All-Star players, starting with number one pick Cole. Joining him were Trevor Bauer (#3), Anthony Rendon (#6), Francisco Lindor (#8), Javier Baez (#9), George Springer (#11), Jose Fernandez (#14) and Sonny Gray (#18), with numerous solid major leaguers interspersed. One exception however however was #2 pick Danny Hultzen, who proved to be a complete bust."
While it is widely known that Hultzen was clearly a bust, it is always amusing to see how many different directions the Mariners could have gone instead of taking him with the #2 pick. You can see that out of the top 10 players selected, 5 became All-Star caliber players. Clearly a major upgrade from what Hultzen gave us. So what if the Mariners went with someone other than Hultzen?
With The #2 Pick Of The 2011 MLB Draft, The Mariners Select… Trevor Bauer
For the sake of the exercise, I am putting the Mariners down as taking Bauer with the pick instead of Hultzen. Based on his Baseball Reference page, Bauer made it to the show in 2012 before being traded the following offseason to the Cleveland Guardians (formerly Indians). While in Cleveland, he developed into a front of the line, Cy Young caliber starting pitcher who up until recently had major success on the field.
With the Mariners looking at college arms in that draft, it seems like Bauer would be a no-brainer. Plus it has been made known over the last few years that Bauer does offseason training in Maple Valley, so imagine what that could have been.
Taking Hultzen Was An Unknown (at the time) Mistake
Danny Hultzen ran into some bad luck throughout his unfortunate career with the Mariners. As Baseball Reference puts it…
"“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”."
There is no way to know that someone is going to be as prone to injury as Hultzen was. Hultzen had to undergo multiple shoulder surgeries in his career which ultimately derailed any shot of making the majors. He did make a comeback effort with the Cubs last year and did surprisingly well during his few appearances out of the bullpen last September.
Hopefully, when the lockout is over, the Mariners will make the most of their selections in the 2022 MLB Draft! Check back next week for the next What-If Wednesday!