Shoulder surgery is never good for a pitching prospect, so when Mariners left-hander Danny Hultzen had surgery a little over a month ago, it raised concerns about his future. That future will be put on hold for at least a year, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com, who says that Hultzen is expected to miss the entire 2014 season while recovering from his surgery.
Hultzen's career trajectory had already taken a peculiar turn since being drafted second overall out of the University of Virginia in 2011. He dominated Double-A in 2012 but experienced extreme wildness in Triple-A after a mid-season promotion. His entire 2013 season was derailed by the same injury he eventually had to get operated on for after trying to get by with just rehab.
Shoulder injuries don't have the same rate of return as more common procedures such as Tommy John, making Hultzen's future that much less certain. He'll miss his entire 24-year-old season and will have to return to the minors at age 25 to rebuild his arm strength in 2015. Hultzen was though to be a safe pick when the Mariners selected him, with perhaps a lower ceiling than some of their other options but a better chance to reach it. His stuff wasn't overpowering before his injury, with his change-up grading out as his only plus pitch. Hultzen got by with exceptional control which allowed all of his stuff to play up. If Hultzen's stuff comes back diminished at all from what it was originally, it will be tough for him to fill out his mid-rotation destiny.
At this point, the Mariners have to begin planning for their future without him.