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Blue Jays Starter Drew Hutchison: Sleeper & Breakout Candidate in 2015

By Keith Allison on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsLet’s be honest--if you’re reading about fantasy baseball in December, you’ve probably heard of any player likely to be considered a sleeper in 2015. Fantasy sports and advanced statistics are more popular than they’ve ever been, and with that popularity has come more data and more people parsing that data for any possible edge.

The term “sleeper” is itself problematic--how under the radar can a guy be if every expert from ESPN to Jerry in Accounting is touting him as the next big thing? Trendy picks usually just end up causing buyer’s remorse. (Cut to everyone who owned Danny Salazar last year nodding sadly). At the same time, you don’t want to dig too deep and gamble on low-percentage upside plays just to feel like the smartest person in the room in March--that’s a good way to look stupid in April.

Ultimately, the name of the game is value, regardless of how much ink is spilled on a player in Spring Training. The Toronto Blue Jays have several intriguing young arms who should draw plenty of attention in fantasy circles, and the one I'll be targeting most often is Drew Hutchison.

Hutchison’s 4.48 ERA was virtually identical to the 4.60 mark he posted as a rookie in 2012, but that’s about the only area where he didn’t make strides in his first full season after Tommy John surgery. He improved from 7.5 K/9 to just under 9, while his walk and homer rates both declined. His average velocity jumped by about 1 MPH. He induced weaker contact, with a drastic reduction in line drive rate and an increase in infield flies. His swinging strike rate was 10.8%, good for 14th in the majors among qualified starters, thanks in large part to an O-Swing % that ranked 17th.

Since neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox look like the powerhouses they used to, the AL East is looking a lot more winnable these days, and the Blue Jays are pushing their chips in to end baseball’s longest playoff drought. Their first move? Signing Russell Martin, who’s regarded as one of the best catchers in the game at framing pitches and limiting the running game. Martin's skills behind the dish should help Hutchison to improve his changeup moving forward and improve his numbers against LHB. Failing that, he’ll need to pound his slider down and in to compensate.

 

In Summary

Hutchison displayed the kind of inconsistency that plagues young pitchers and infuriates fantasy owners, flashing a 1.61 ERA in his 11 victories and an ugly 8.63 mark in his 13 losses. If he can limit those blow-ups and continue to miss bats, Hutchison may well be the most valuable fantasy arm on the Jays’ roster in 2015.

 





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