18 May 2011

2011 Depot Draft Preview: Finding 1:4 (Danny Hultzen)

We continue our annual look at amateur talents the Baltimore Orioles could (should) be targeting in the 1st Round and beyond. Over the next two weeks we will bear down on the eight potential 1st Round targets listed below, followed by a week dedicated to the 2nd - 5th Rounds and finally the 6th - 10th Rounds. As a reminder, the draft coverage here will focus on Baltimore. More in-depth coverage, including rankings, scouting reports, videos and more can be found over at http://www.diamondscapescouting.com/.

Potential targets at 1:4

Anthony Rendon / 3b / Rice Univ.
Gerrit Cole / rhp / UCLA
Bubba Starling / of/rhp / Gardner Edgerton HS (Gardner, Kan.)
Sonny Gray / rhp / Vanderbilt Univ.
Danny Hultzen / lhp / Univ. of Virginia
Dylan Bundy / rhp / Owasso HS (Owasso, Okla.)
Taylor Jungmann / rhp / Univ. of Texas
Jed Bradley / lhp / Georgia Tech

*Every player discussed in the Depot Draft Preview has been scouted by Nick J. Faleris, either through his efforts at DiamondScape Scouting or as part of his duties as an Associate Scout in the Midwest Region for a National League organization.

Danny Hultzen (lhp, Univ. of Virginia)
Ht/Wt: 6-3/220
B/T: L/L
Year: Junior
Age at Draft: 21y6m
Games Scouted: 1 (in person); 8 (video)

Grades - Now (Future):
Motion: 50/55 (55)
Fastball: 55/60 (55/60)
Slider: 50 (55/60)
Change: 60/65 (65/70)
Control: 55/60 (60)
Command: 55 (60)
Feel: 55/50 (60)
Overall Future Potential: 58/60

*Notes on Grades: The Scouting Scale works from 20-80, with 50 being Major League Average. The scale operates loosely on a bell curve, so the further you move from 50 the fewer grades you'll find among ML players (e.g. Aroldis Chapman's fastball, Ichiro Suzuki's arm strength, Adam Dunn's power and Albert Pujols' hit tool would all be 80 grade). A 60 grade is sometimes referred to as plus and a 70 grade is sometimes referred to as plus-plus.

Physical Description:
Broad shoulders, broad hips, high waist. Handles long limbs well, solid body control. Lean, athletic build with sturdy trunk.

Hultzen keeps a good pace and repeats his simple mechanics with ease. Throwing out of a low three-quarters arm slot and shielding the ball well, he creates good angle on his offerings and is difficult to pick-up and to square. He has a medium arm circle that he keeps well shielded (though he will at times hook and flash on the backside), and gives a late look at the ball as he is accelerating forward, helping the ball to really jump on hitters. He is a medium strider, but his long limbs help him to get solid extension and he stays out and over his plant leg well.

Fastball - 90-93 mph last year but generally dropping off into the 88-90 range by the late innings, Hultzen has maintained his velocity a little more consistently this spring. Additionally, he saw a bump in velo earlier in the season, touching 95 mph (some reported 96) in several starts. Because he took the summer off last year, and the velocity hasn't been a mainstay in his later season starts, there is some concern that he'll be closer to 90-92 once he's shouldering a pro workload. He spots the pitch well and gets a lot of swings-and-misses up in the zone after setting-up hitters with his secondaries down.

Change-up - Hultzen's change is regularly a plus offering right now, and perhaps the best off-speed pitch in the draft class. He throws 78-82 mph with arm slot deception with the pitch regularly boasting late fade and drop. He effectively runs the pitch outside to righties, with it serving as a "disappearing" off-speed and true swing-and-miss weapon. As noted above, it is also useful to set-up his average to above-average fastball.

Slider - The largest improvement this spring may have come in the consistency and command Hultzen has shown with his breaking ball. A fringy pitch last spring, it has been a solid average offering in 2011 and a useful third weapon, particularly as a backdoor pitch to righties and a bury pitch to lefties. There is minimal upside, as the pitch lacks ideal tilt, but it could end-up above-average with reps and continued improvement in implementation and execution. He was 79-82 last spring and has raised his velo a tick to 80-83, touching 84 mph on occasion.

Hultzen entered the spring as one of the higher probability arms with mid-rotation upside, and has grown that projection into a ceiling as a true #2 starter. He has roundly won over evaluators and gets glowing reviews from the national media outlets covering the draft. The UVA lefty has been tried, tested and proven repeatedly over his three year career in Charlottesville, showing growth in stuff each year, poise on the mound and improved durability. The concerns with Hultzen hang on his slider and his fastball velocity. Hultzen's motion creates a tough angle on hitters and produces a limited view of the ball before release, giving the illusion of pitches jumping on hitters. The draw back is that the angle and plane of his slider limit both the tilt on the pitch and the strike entry window at the plate. If more advanced hitters are able to identify the pitch early enough (a task admittedly made more difficult by the mechanics) the utility of the pitch may peak at "giving them a different look." Additionally, while the maintenance of low-90s fastball velocity into later innings is a big step forward, the peak velocity reaching 95/96 mph in the early spring may not be here to stay. As it is the frequency of the peak velos have dropped in recent starts, and Hultzen may have benefited early this year from his recharge after taking the summer off. Throwing on shorter rest through a longer season could, likewise, negatively affect his ability to climb up to the 95 mph range with consistency. His easy arm action negates some of these concerns, but they are worth keeping in mind. All in all, Hultzy is an advanced college arm with three legit ML pitches, including a potential fringe plus-plus change-up, and advanced pitchability and command. He is a safe pick with good ceiling if everything continues to click and should be off the board in the first ten picks.

Projected position: #2/#3 starter on tier one team
Suggested draft slot: Top ten overall


This scouting report originally published by the author here.

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