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April 20, 2012
The situation: With the Blue Jays needing a fifth starter, they surprisingly decided to tab the reasonable yet least experienced candidate for the job in Hutchison, a 21-year-old right-hander who has made just six career starts above Class A.
Background: While Hutchison was selected in the 15th round (by the Blue Jays) out of a Florida high school in 2009, he was seen as significantly more talented than that round suggests. Many teams saw him as too expensive or too strongly committed to college, but the Blue Jays deserve credit for properly gauging his signability; they took him late and inked him to a $400,000 bonus, which is more commensurate with a third-round selection.
Hutchison pitched well in his 2010 pro debut, but he had his true breakout campaign last year. After spending the first half of the year at Low-A Lansing, where he had a 2.64 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings, he didn't skip a beat after a midseason promotion to High-A Dunedin, where he had a 2.74 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 62 1/3 innings. He finished the season with a trio of impressive starts at Double-A New Hampshire. Returning to the Eastern League to begin the 2012 season, Hutchison has a 2.16 ERA in three starts for the Fisher Cats.
What he can do: Hutchison has good stuff, but what makes him stand out is his ability to locate his pitches. His fastball is just a tick above-average in terms of velocity, sitting in the low 90s, but it plays up thanks to excellent movement and his ability to work all four quadrants of the strike zone with it. He pitches off his fastball to get ahead in the count, which sets up a decent slider and a very good changeup that is his put-away offering.
Immediate big league future: While Hutchison is inexperienced, the maturity of his game should allow him to battle big league hitters. Much of his success will depend on his changeup, which is a "feel" pitch. It could be difficult for him to harness the off-speed pitch if the excitement of the situation gets to him. Although he generally trusts his stuff, he has a tendency to get too cute at times outside the strike zone, and big league hitters will lay off many pitches that Double-A hitters will commit to.
Long-term: Hutchison has a good chance to stick as Toronto's No. 5 starter in 2012, and he profiles as a middle-of-the-rotation starter in the prime of his career. He has the ability to put up solid ERA and strikeout numbers and an above-average WHIP thanks to his ability to avoid handing out free passes.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .