There’s a commonly accepted rule in fantasy baseball circles – “don’t read too much into spring training stats.” I sure do love to break that rule. Every year, something special happens in spring training and with the right approach you can identify and build it into your fantasy draft plan. This year, Drew Hutchison looks like one of those special gems.
The Blue Jays rotation is not the place where people go fishing for fantasy pitching. RA Dickey eats plenty of innings, but the rest of the candidates appear to have some kind of skin condition. Some might call it warts. At the outset of spring training, the back of the rotation was particularly gruesome. A number of never-been pitchers were competing with a bunch of recently injured pitchers. Marcus Stroman was somewhere in that mix as the token prospect. I’m sure we’ll see him in May or June. Now the dust has settled, and it looks like Hutchison is a lock for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.
Hutchison was one of those recently injured guys. He was a good prospect until an elbow injury in 2012 required Tommy John surgery. The Blue Jays have a knack for developing soon to be injured players, so I think we all dismissed him at that point. Well he’s new and improved with a healthy UCL and a 95 mph fastball. In 9.2 recorded innings, he’s struck out 16 batters, walked one, and allowed seven hits. That’s tasty.
Usually, this is when I turn to PITCHf/x data, but that doesn’t really exist. I can show you that he threw a bit under 92 mph in 2012. Back in that ancient and hoary past, Hutchison used his fastball frequently against right-handed batters before turning to the slider for the finish. Lefties were shown a sinker and change-up with frequency. We’ll see what kind of usage patterns emerge this season or if another pitch is in the mix.
I do have some third hand footage to point out via Carson Cistulli. He deserves the h/t for bringing Hutchison to our attention. Per Cistulli’s numbers, Hutchison has been the second best pitcher at something this spring, behind James Shields. You’ll have to ask Cistulli what the particular something is – I can say that it’s presented in a tidy minus stat, such that Hutchison has performed 39 percent below league league average. Presumably, said stat is like a golf score – a low number is good.
Command and control have always been a strength for Hutchison, so it’s great to see the increased velocity and major league opportunity. While it’s premature to slot Hutchison alongside Sonny Gray on your draft board, he’s a virtual unknown to almost everybody everywhere. I’ve managed snatch him in every league I participate in, so now it’s safe for you to do the same. If you’re looking for a comp in terms of what to expect, I think Ivan Nova serves as a good, conservative pick. There’s upside for more in that 95 mph heater.
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