Quelle surprise! The Toronto Blue Jays need a fifth starter!

B-b-b-but didn’t they recently make a questionable decision to extend the contract of someone for just such a duty? Ah, well. It’s not my money.

Instead of the forever rehabbing Dustin McGowan, the Blue Jays will call on 21 year-old right-hander Drew Hutchison to make his Major League debut on Saturday evening against the Kansas City Royals.

A 15th round draft pick, in name only considering his $400,000 signing bonus, Hutchison boasts a four-seamer that reaches 94 miles per hour, a two-seamer in the low nineties/high eighties, an 84 miles per hour slider and a change up that Keith Law calls “plus dating back to when the Jays drafted him.”

That type of repertoire may not sound like anything special, but according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:

Hutchison has good stuff, but what makes him stand out is his ability to locate his pitches. His fastball … plays up thanks to excellent movement and his ability to work all four quadrants of the strike zone with it.

Both Law and Goldstein project that Hutchison will make for a solid mid-rotation starter in the future. But by calling him up after less than 32 innings above A ball, the Blue Jays are putting more of an emphasis on the present by hoping that he can become the team’s fifth starter.

Frankly, I don’t like the idea of starting the service clock of a player who projects to be an important member of a team before it’s absolutely necessary, especially when one would figure that there’s still room for development.

In a perfect world where Hutchison gets called up, makes an impact and is never sent back down to the Minor Leagues again, he would remain under team control through the 2018 season. Since we’re more than ten days into the season, it’s safe to call him up without risking an early departure or having to buy out an early free agent year in a contract extension further on down the road. However, he would most certainly qualify for Super Two status, and end up costing the Jays an additional year of arbitration eligibility.

I felt similarly about Henderson Alvarez when the Blue Jays called him up last season and that was without the worry over eventual Super Two status. Despite those concerns, Alvarez has been something of a success story making the Opening Day rotation after his ten starts last season.

Of course, Alvarez had the benefit of pitching more than 370 innings of professional baseball before his call up, whereas Hutchison only has 230 innings under his belt. Again, I don’t quite understand the rush, but in this case I’ll hope that the Blue Jays front office is aware of something I am not.

Toronto fans would probably do well to limit their expectations though. In baseball history, 29 pitchers 21 years of age or younger, have contributed at least three rWAR in their initial season in the league. Only four from that list did so this millennium: Zack Greinke, Dontrelle Willis, Joel Zumaya and Huston Street. Only two those players were starters.

For more on Hutchison, check out DJF.

Comments (11)

  1. I suspect in the long term, I don’t think Huchison will factor much into the Jay’s “long” term plans. They’re probably hoping that he bridges the gap until the really high upside arms are ready for the majors to take his place. By the time he gets expensive, they can move him along and if lucky, net a return bounty like what the Padres got for Latos.

  2. The concerns over “super two’ status only come into play if he sticks in the rotation for most of this year and the next 2 years. Unless he proves that is a capable major leaguer, then that won’t happen and there is no harm done by calling him up now. If he does stick as a contributing member of the rotation for all that time, then the team could likely live with him achieving arbitration eligibility a year earlier.

  3. I went to a spring training game and saw Hutchison pitch in person. Nate Mclouth took him yard. Yikes.

  4. Okay… All of this is valid. But whom would you have called up instead? Laffey? Chavez?

  5. I suppose there are Super 2 concerns, but isn’t it cheaper for the jays to use their own talent rather than pay FMV for a reliable starter?

    I would rather see the Jays use the homegrown talent rather than wasting starts on a Jo Jo Reyes type.

    Starting Laffey would be an embarrassement

    • For someone who was so intent on not giving Jo-Jo Reyes types any starts this season, isn’t giving Laffey the 5 role logically inconsistent?

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