June 15, 2012. That is the day that things changed for Drew Hutchison and the Toronto Blue Jays. That was the day that Hutchison’s rookie season came to an abrupt halt and the day that Hutchison officially fell off the map of viable prospects for a lot of Blue Jays fans.
The words “Tommy John” tend to do that to a pitcher.
However, with the Toronto Blue Jays maintaining radio silence for much of this winter, except the occasional quote for Alex Anthopoulos about waiting for the market to settle down, Drew Hutchison could find his name at the tip of many Blue Jays fans tongues once again. The lack of offseason moves to improve the rotation may bode well for the 23-year-old Lakeland, Florida resident.
It’s kind of coincidental if you think about it. When Hutchison received his first chance with the Blue Jays, prior to the 2012 season, it was similarly fruitless offseason of trying to improve the starting rotation that won him his shot. Of course, the path was a little different in 2012. Baseball America’s 9th rated prospect in the Blue Jays system was coming off a good spring and had made a quick rise through the Blue Jays system, something that seems unheard of considering how slowing Toronto prospects seem to arrive.
Unfortunately, his first turn in Toronto ended abruptly. After 11 starts, which resulted in a 5-3 record, a 4.60 ERA, and a 7.5 K/9 ratio, Hutchison strained the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow on June 15, 2012. On August 8th, the Blue Jays and Hutchison would opt for the right-hander to undergo Tommy John surgery, ending his season and shelving him for most of 2013.
Hutchison would make his return to the mound, albeit on a minor league rehab assignment, in early August, nearly a full year after undergoing the surgery. He would make 10 appearances (9 starts) across three levels before the minor league season ended, but the results were mixed at best, with Hutchison posting an 0-4 record, a 4.84 ERA, but a solid 10.7 K/9 ratio.
However, the Blue Jays and fans saw plenty of reason to be encouraged when Hutchison continued his work in the Arizona Fall League. Starting six games for the Salt River Rafters during the AFL season, Hutchison posted a 2-1 record with a 3.32 ERA and an 8.3 K/9 ratio. The former top control pitcher in the system also continued to improve his walk ratio, albeit against aggressive AFL hitters. His performance in the desert helped Hutchison earn the AFL’s Pitcher of the Week award for Week 4.
Now, with Toronto seemingly content with coming into the season with a rotation of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, and J.A. Happ, Drew Hutchison stands a real chance of earning that fifth and final spot, just like he did in 2012. If the Blue Jays make no further moves, he’ll face competition from 2013 surprise Todd Redmond, fellow Tommy John rehabee Kyle Drabek, and upstart prospect Marcus Stroman, but Hutchison has been in this position before. Even if he isn’t the first choice, Hutchison could become one of the first reinforcements called upon.
At just 23-years-old, Hutchison still has plenty of upside to like and the pitcher himself just wants to pick things up where he left off. He’s just waiting for his chance to surprise fatalistic Blue Jays fans