Thursday, September 12, 2013

Drew Hutchison Scouting Report (Toronto Blue Jays)

I ran into an oddly high number of rehabbing starting pitchers this season. The most unique of these was Blue Jays right-hander, Drew Hutchison. Hutchison had barely pitched above A-ball before making his Major League debut in 2012. After logging about 60 innings with the Jays (and seeing his fastball velo tick up inexplicably) Huchison suffered an arm injury and needed Tommy John surgery. I saw four of the thirty-five innings he threw this year in rehabilitation on that injury.

At 6’2” and 195lbs, Hutchison is of average height and build. He’s thin, angular and proportional with strength in his thighs. There’s some room for him to add weight and maintain his current delivery but he looks comfortable with where he’s at right now. Hutchison’s delivery is slow and casual until he begins to accelerate his arm when everything speeds up in a mildly violent manner. He cuts himself off a bit in the process but for the most part everything heads for home plate. It’s not an easy-does-it delivery that’s going to summon visions of ballet dancers or make you think of a warm cup of tea on a cool autumn morning, but it also isn’t so bad that I think he’s going to break again.

The fastball sat 87-92mph for me with a little bit of movement. Hutch commanded it well on the horizontal axis but really struggled to keep the ball down a lot of the time. By my count, he yielded 12 outs in the air as opposed to just one on the ground. I put a 55 on his control and a 45 on his command. How those two develop as his rehab continues will have a big impact on his success. He can’t live up in the zone with a 55 fastball in the big leagues.

Hutchison’s slider was his best pitch. A true grade-6 weapon, slidey’s velo ranged anywhere from 82-87mph with serious horizontal whip. He worked it back toot to left-handed hitters and away from righties. I’d like to see him pitch backwards with it. He only threw four full innings in the start I saw so perhaps he’d be more likely to do so if he saw the lineup turn over a third or fourth time. The changeup is a fringe-average pitch with good arm speed but lacking in movement. The changeup grip was easy for me to see as the ball left his hand but whether or not the hitter can also make that distinction from field level, I don’t know.

I put a 50 on Hutch as an overall grade and I think he’s a fourth or fifth starter at the big league level. My main concern is how often that fastball was left up in the zone and whacked into the outfield somewhere. If he can correct that then I think he can attain the grade I’ve assigned him above. If not, I wonder if a move to the bullpen would allow the velocity to tick up a bit more and thus provide him with more margin for error on those pitches he leaves up. In that case I think he could be an interesting 7th or 8th inning reliever when you throw in that nasty slider.

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