I have always been a huge fan of Drew Hutchison, when a 15th round draft pick makes their Major League debut at age 21 that is always a great sign. Leading up to his debut in 2011 he climbed 3 levels posting a 14-5 record in 27 starts, a 2.53 ERA, 149 IP, 1.038 WHIP, 2.1 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9. At the end of the 2011 season his minor league success earned him the ranking of 9th best prospect in the Blue Jays system by Baseball America. To put that in context after stockpiling young talent the Blue Jays had the 5th best system in the MLB according to Baseball America. He was by no means a Blue Chip prospect but a solid player on the rise in a nice young system.
Hutchison made is MLB debut on April 21st, 2012 at age 21. It is always exciting to see young players step up and contribute. Hutchison would go on to make 11 starts with decent results before hitting the disabled list and eventually undergoing Tommy John surgery. It was disappointing to see a promising young player suffer a major injury so early into his career. At the very least he was only 21 and could be capable of returning in 2014 still at a very young age.
In 2014 Hutchison did again make the rotation and appeared ready to contribute. There is always a level of drop off expected in the first year post Tommy John. Still Hutchison gave 184 IP, pitched to a 4.48 ERA with a promising 3.85 FIP, his metrics looked very promising with a 2.9 BB/9 & 9 SO/9. This was a very successful season for the 23-year-old and the expectation was that with another year post Tommy John he would be ready to reach his potential or at least be a solid contributor.
Heading into 2015 I told every person who would listen that Hutchison was ready for a breakout season, I added him to every fantasy team I had. I believed in his metrics and was excited to watch him lose some of the inconsistent performances that made his numbers like ERA balloon a bit. When Hutchison is on his game its a beautiful thing, he controls the zone, strikes guys out and can pitch deep into the game. He is the type of player you want in the middle of your rotation.
2015 did not go as planned. He made 28 starts, had a shiny 13-5 record but had an ugly 5.57 ERA, by the end of the season Hutchison would eventually loose his rotation spot and not make the playoff roster. Taking a look at his metrics you see that his ERA suffered some inflation with a 4.42 FIP and respectable BB/SO ratios. They indicate that he could very well put up average numbers next season but his 10.7 H/9 or 9.83 road ERA also show the lack of consistency. Yet at home he was brilliant, posting a 2.91 ERA and limiting batters to a .238 avg (.380 on the road).
This is exactly what makes Hutchison so confusing. On one had he was brilliant at home, would occasionally be downright nasty and on the road he was a disaster, and looked completely lost on the mound. I have read numerous theories on what is wrong with Hutchison and I hope the Blue Jays have figured it out. However that leaves us with the question of what to do with Hutchison in 2016.
As it stands today the Blue Jays have 1 rotation spot left. Hutchison by no means has that spot locked up and he will have to fight for it in spring training. His main competition appears to be Jesse Chavez and Aaron Sanchez. Of the 3 I think Hutchison might get the first crack. Chavez IMO was brought in strictly as a depth rotation piece and is there to fill a spot when it opens. As previous noted Sanchez will be fighting for the spot but he also might end up in the bullpen to start the season. Should Hutchison have a good spring I think he ends up in the rotation and I believe the organization wants to see if he can make the necessary step forward. It’s easy to forget that the is only 1 year older than Marcus Stroman and already has several season of experience under his belt. He still is of an age where it’s not unrealistic to expect him to come into his own.
The other options are to send him to AAA to help fine tune some issues and wait there until a need arises or see if he can be an effective reliever. He has decent velocity and could potentially live at 96-97 MPH in the pen with his fastball. Of course Hutchison unlike Sanchez does not rely on movement. When effective Hutchison controls the zone, piles up the SO and manages contact but as mentioned he needs consistency to take the next step.
I do believe that Hutchison will get the first crack at the 5th spot in the rotation this season and very well could be an effective option. Of course we will have to wait to see how the spring plays out, there is always a chance someone has an injury and Hutchison could fall into a spot in the rotation.