I love this. Whether Danny Hultzen ever pitches for the big league Cubs or not, his story is impressive (and inspiring for the young players he’ll be with), and you can never totally count out natural talent.
Per Arizona Phil, who is basically always right about these things, lefty Danny Hultzen has re-signed a minor league deal to stay in the Cubs organization.
Now 28, Hultzen was a tip-top pitching prospect many years ago, who suffered through a string of serious injuries that derailed his career completely. He hasn’t pitched any kind of a meaningful load of competitive professional innings since 2012.
But he’s been trying to work his way back, and eventually threw 8.2 minor league innings for the Cubs last year (rookie ball, AAA). Now he gets the opportunity to keep working with the Cubs this offseason, and then a chance to show where he’s at in Spring Training.
For those who are not familiar, Hultzen was the second overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft out of Virginia. The tall lefty had made something of a mockery of the ACC in his three college years, winning Freshman of the Year honors, then Pitcher of the Year honors, and then the John Olerud Award (best two-way player in college). That he was selected just after Gerrit Cole at the top of the draft was not a surprise, nor, necessarily, was it a surprise that he immediately got a big league contract (back in those days, you could do that as an enticement to sign). The guy was as certainly a future stud as a pitching prospect can be.
But, the thing is, pitching prospects are still only prospects, and pitching ones at that. Troubles arise for even the best of the best, as we just saw with the now-retired Mark Appel, though for Hultzen, it was entirely about his health. After pitching through pain to try to prove his worth after signing that big league contract, Hultzen was forced to have major shoulder surgery during the 2013 season. His comeback proved long, and unsuccessful – he logged just 10 innings after that – and he had to have another shoulder surgery in 2016 ….
Hultzen’s return to pitching professionally at all would be an impressive story, and something that other prospects throughout the team’s system could watch and learn from. His hard work and perseverance is impressive, as is his honesty about the mistakes he made in taking care of his body and not being willing to seek help sooner. Hultzen, it should be noted, also spent some time last year as a volunteer coach at UVA.