Mar 1, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) pitches in the first inning against Baltimore Orioles during a spring training exhibition game at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports
RHP Drew Hutchison, 23, looks to be a good candidate for the Toronto Blue Jays’ fifth starter for one reason… he is throwing better than anyone else. While the other candidates are trying to find their game, Hutchison is consistently getting the third out and if there is something the Jays need after the disastrous 2013 season, it is a solid starter to anchor their rotation.
Hutchison had his second spring training outing last Saturday, this time against the Minnesota Twins. He pitched three innings. He surrendered two hits, a single by Max Kepler, then gave up a homerun to top rated prospect Byron Buxton. He struck out five and walked one batter. Hutchison’s ERA after five innings is 3.60. He has nine strikeouts and his opposition batting average is .167. Hutchison’s ground out to air out rate is now at 2.0 and his WHIP is 0.80. In baseball slang, his stuff is just filthy.
Hutchison is competing with rotation depth pitchers such as Todd Redmond, Esmil Rodgers, Kyle Drabek, Sean Nolin, Ricky Romero, prospect Marcus Stroman, as well as Dustin McGowan. Only Romero seems to be coming close to pitching as dependably as Hutchison.
There is a fly in the ointment though. The Toronto Blue Jays may not go north with their best players, since there are many that are out of options. The logic is that putting players who have no options left on waivers leaves them vulnerable for other teams to pick them up. That is undeniably true, but it is also logical to take the best pitcher for the fifth spot in the starting rotation. Hutchison is that man.
Hutchison’s rookie season was 2012 and his record was fair, 5-3, with 4 quality starts in 11 appearances. However, he had a high ERA of 4.60 and WHIP of 1.347. Then he injured his arm and required Tommy John surgery.
After his rehab, Hutchison pitched in the Arizona Fall League (AFL) with the Salt Water Rafters where he won the player of week award in November, 2013. His ERA was 3.32, his WHIP 1.13, and the opposition batting average .213 in 21.2 innings pitched.
Hutchison has a three-pitch repertoire. His fastball reaches the mid-90s which he throws 75 percent of the time. His slider 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 picked Hutchison, 6’2″, out of Lakeland Florida High School in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. Scouts have always commented on his athleticism, body control and his ability to field his position well. Hutchison has a decent upside too. The Blue Jay organization believes he could make a good mid-rotation pitcher with more experience in the Show, but for now he is good enough for fifth.