According to Baseball America, former Virginia pitcher Danny Hultzen is currently one of the best minor league prospects in the game.
The publication released its mid-season list of the top 50 prospects in the minors on Thursday, with Hultzen ranked No. 5. The lefty was ranked 21st on Baseball America's preseason list of the sport's best prospects.
Hultzen, the second overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 2011 draft, is currently 9-4, with a 1.75 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 16 starts at two minor league levels this season. The first 13 of those starts came with Mariners' Double-A team in Jackson, where Hultzen didn't allow a run in his final 26 2/3 innings.
According to Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis, Hultzen has out-performed expectations in his first pro season.
"Expectations were obviously high for the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, but I don't think anyone could have expected him to dominate Double-A as thoroughly as he did," Callis said in an email on Thursday. "The going has been rougher in his three Triple-A starts, but that's not a concern."
Hultzen is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA in his first three starts with Triple-A Tacoma.
"His command hasn't been as sharp in Triple-A, so he just needs to fine-tune that," said Callis. "There's nothing wrong with his stuff."
Three of the top five players on the Baseball America prospect list released on Thursday are pitchers -- Dylan Bundy (No.1, Orioles); Taijuan Walker (No. 4, Mariners); and Hultzen. Hultzen is the first of those three pitchers to reach the Triple-A level.
And Callis thinks Hultzen's Major League debut could come before the end of the 2012 season.
"His big league contract means that he's already on the 40-man roster," Callis said, "so I bet we see him in September for a start or two."