The Toronto Blue Jays have many candidates to look at this spring training for the fifth starting pitcher. Right-hander Drew Hutchison, 23, may be the best option. Why? Dependability! If there is something the Jays need after the disastrous 2013 season, it is a solid starter to anchor their rotation.
Sceptics might not like the use of the adjective “dependable” when referring to Hutchison since an arm injury knocked him out of his rookie season in July, 2012. Many others will argue that Hutchison is reliable since he worked hard to get his arm back in shape after his Tommy John surgery and started pitching like a vet.
In 2012, Hutchison had a good record, 5-3, with 4 quality starts in 11 appearances. However, he had a high ERA of 4.60 and sub-par WHIP of 1.347.
Hutchison resurrected his career in 2013 with his rehab pitching performance with the Salt Water Rafters in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) where he won the player of week award in November, 2013. It was this new and improved Hutchison that opened baseball sages’ eyes.
His ERA was 3.32, his WHIP 1.13, and the opposition batting average .213 in 21.2 innings pitched. Granted, this is a small sample size and the AFL is not the majors.
The Toronto Blue Jays picked Hutchison, 6’2″, out of Lakeland Florida High School in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. Scouts have always commented on his solid athleticism, body control and his ability to field his position well. Hutchison has an upside too. The Blue Jays organization believes he could make a good mid-rotation pitcher with more experience in the Show.
Hutchison has a three-pitch mix. He has excellent command of his fastball which reaches the mid-90s. He throws it 75 percent of the time. He has a plus-slider which is deceptive as is his change-up. Hutchison is consistent with his speed, arm slot, timing and release with these latter two pitches. He hides the ball well and his mechanics, e.g., his short arm circle, make it tough for hitters to pick it up. Hutchison throws strikes but he will not mow batters down; instead, he hits his spots surgically or beguiles batters to chase. Like Mark Beurhle, Hutchison works quickly, leaving the opposition little time to regroup.
The Jays have many candidates for the fifth spot behind R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, and J.A. Happ. Still, the starting pitching rotation situation is fluid. There is a lot of speculation on whether a free agent like Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana might knock Happ down to the fifth slot. That would mean Hutchison would begin 2014 in Buffalo. If such an acquisition does not take place, Hutchison, still has to compete with rotation depth pitchers such as Todd Redmond, Esmil Rogers, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, long-suffering Ricky Romero, prospect Marcus Stroman, as well as career-survivor and stretched-out Dustin McGowan. Talk about a run-on sentence of competition.
Competition is good. It motivates. Here is an example. Spring Training 2014 began unofficially last week with all the 5th spot candidates arriving early. Drew Hutchison; however, has advantages. He is an experienced starter who is extremely athletic and fields well. He has good mechanics over three pitches. He throws with deception and control. He is a determined survivor. Most importantly, he is dependable pitcher, something the Jays desperately need.