We haven’t talked about the Chicago Cubs Danny Hultzen much, but we should be. A low-risk, high-reward signing last spring may just payoff this season.
In 2011, Danny Hultzen was a first-round pick of the Seattle Mariners. In 2018, he was signing a minor-league with the Chicago Cubs. The issue? Health. Through 2011 and 2012, he was healthy and putting up solid numbers for the Mariners Double and Triple-A affiliates. Then came the injuries. In 2013, shoulder issues forced him to miss much of the season.
In 2014 he tore his labrum and rotator cuff, and he didn’t pitch a single inning that year. Hultzen required a second surgery in 2016. After that, he ‘retired’ from baseball. Another first-round pick that didn’t make it. Injuries can take their toll, especially pitchers. The Cubs called him in the spring of 2018, not expecting much. And that is the way Hultzen pitched.
To my surprise on The Athletic, Jim Bowden was talking about ’11 minor leaguers ready to help now.’ (Subscription required) Lo and behold, Hultzen was mentioned. After a 5.19 ERA in 8 2/3 innings, I was surprised he was still with the club.
This season, he’s only pitched since 6/16, and a total of 13 games for 13 2/3 innings. But he’s allowed just a 1.32 ERA and a WHIP 0.878 with three saves. And with an SO9 of 14.5? He could be an impressive September call-up, especially since he won’t have to pitch a lot of innings.
I won’t go as far as to say he would make the playoff roster, because honestly, a few guys are going to get left off. But if he can pitch an inning to help out a depleted Cubs bullpen? That in itself would endear him to fans.
In his abbreviated season, he’s allowed a .091 BAA and just a .174 BAbip. The key for Hultzen is staying healthy. He’s had several injuries in the past, and you never know when the next one will be. Hopefully, he’s past that and can fill a role–however minute–for the Cubs bullpen.
With Brandon Kintzler, Steve Cishek and Craig Kimbrel all on the IL, the Cubs need something to spark their bullpen. It was Kimbrel until he went down with knee inflammation. One or all of these guys may be ready to return soon, but having extra arms doesn’t hurt.