CHICAGO -- Given a chance to add another top arm to their already pitching-strong organization, the Mariners selected Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen with the No. 2 pick in Monday's First-Year Player Draft.
The 6-foot-3 Hultzen, 21, is 11-3 with a 1.57 ERA in 15 starts for top-ranked Virginia this year and 31-5 with a 2.18 in his three-year collegiate career.
Impressed by Hultzen's athleticism, pitching ability and mature makeup, the Mariners surprised a few people -- including the youngster from Maryland -- by picking him ahead of well-regarded position players like Anthony Rendon and Bubba Starling.
"I believe in taking the best player or the best pitcher and Dan was the best guy at pick No. 2, no doubt," said Mariners amateur scouting director Tom McNamara.
CWS, DET, NYY and PHI did not have first-round selections.
Hultzen was a 10th-round selection by the D-backs three years ago, but felt it best to go to college and said he'd never second-guess that decision even if he hadn't had such a successful career at Virginia.
"That was very important for me," Hultzen said. "I've learned so much, not only about baseball but about being a man and growing up and helping me mature on and off the field."
It's that sort of outlook that impressed the Mariners. That and the mid-90s fastball and pinpoint control. Some have compared him to Cliff Lee in his pitching style, which is certainly heady company.
"He's a very athletic kid," said Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. "He's a strike thrower. And you have a left-handed pitcher that's done the things he's done, his make-up, poise. His parents are very professional people, his father's a doctor and his mother a psychiatrist. He's an Academic All-American.
"You start putting the pieces together and realize you have a good pedigree as well as a lot of success on the field. So it's a combination of a lot of things that make this a very solid selection for us."
As for Hultzen's own scouting report on himself?
"I'm a left-hander who goes out and competes, no matter who I'm facing," he said. "Just go after and attack the hitter."
Hultzen has held opposing hitters to a .189 batting average with 17 walks and 148 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings this year. He's also a good enough athlete to have played designated hitter and first base when not pitching, posting a .330 batting average and 25 RBIs this season.
He's stolen 18 bases in 19 attempts during his college career.
Virginia advanced to the NCAA Super Regionals by beating East Carolina on Sunday. Hultzen is the ace of the Cavaliers' staff as the two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year. He was MVP of the NCAA Charlottesville Regional this past weekend after beating St. John's with 12 strikeouts and batting 7-for-11 (.636) in three games.
Most analysts expected Seattle to opt for Rice third baseman Rendon, though he'd suffered from shoulder problems this past season. The Mariners also passed on standout high school outfielder Starling, another risk given he has signed a football scholarship to play quarterback at Nebraska.
The Mariners have selected pitchers with their first pick in five of the past six drafts. Zduriencik ticks off the names of Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, last year's picks Taijuan Walker and James Paxton and promising youngster Erasmo Ramirez, then adds Hultzen and can't help but smile.
"We all know pitching is a premium," Zduriencik said. "Left handed is a very desirable commodity in our industry and when you add all the other things about this particular player, that's why we think it's the right pick. Believe me, I would have loved to have three more picks -- we could have done a whole lot of damage -- but you make one call and this is the call that we made."
The Mariners' latest addition grew up a long way from Seattle, but certainly knows about the club and its recent history.
"I'm very excited. It's a great organization," Hultzen said. "I remember the first Major League hat I got was a Seattle Mariners hat. I remember watching Ken Griffey Jr. and guys like Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson. I'm very excited to be part of that organization. ... Griffey was my guy growing up."
Seattle has had the No. 2 pick two of the last three years, having selected Dustin Ackley out of North Carolina in that spot in 2009.
Picking second doesn't guarantee a future Major League standout, but there have been plenty to come up from that spot in recent years. From 2002-06, the players picked second were B.J. Upton, Rickie Weeks, Justin Verlander and Alex Gordon.
The more recent No. 2s haven't yet reached the big leagues, but include highly regarded prospects like Ackley and Kansas City's Mike Moustakas.
The Mariners had only one pick in Monday's first round and sandwich picks. They'll have the second pick on Tuesday (62nd overall) when the Draft resumes with rounds 2-30.
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft resumes at 9 a.m. PT on Tuesday on MLB.com, where fans will receive exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player.
You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. MLB.com associate reporter Taylor Soper contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.