Top Prospect #29: Ryan Hutchison

A pretty sizeable red flag went up when Ryan Hutchison needed right wrist surgery after the 2002 season. There was a concern that it would set his career way back, but he has come through that just fine and is ready to push for a major league job in the very near future.

Ryan Hutchison has developed better than many baseball people believed that he would. Coming out of Western Kentucky University, Hutchison wasn't deemed a major prospect and in fact, lasted until the Phillies took him in the 17th round of the 2001 Draft.

From the time he hit the professional ranks, Hutchison seemed to click. In his first season, he went 21 appearances, covering 26 innings, without allowing a run. He led Batavia in appearances with 26 and was third in the New York / Penn League with 23 games finished, saving nine games for the MuckDogs. The following season, a wrist injury put him on the DL for nearly a month, but he returned with a vengeance, even though the wrist wasn't fully healed. He posted a 1.33 ERA over his final 13 appearances, but was still bothered by a sore wrist, which needed off-season surgery to fix.

Because of the surgery, 2003 was a question mark for Hutchison. He answered the question beautifully, posting a 0.96 ERA in eight games with Clearwater before being promoted to AA Reading. You might say he had his "worst" season at Reading, but was still impressive and posted a 3-2, 3.76 mark with five saves for the R-Phils. This past season, he pitched at Clearwater, Reading and Scranton, going a combined 5-4, 2.49 with seven saves. Another season at Scranton and Hutchison will likely be deemed ready to compete for a major league spot.

2001 Batavia 3 1 0.55 9 26 0 0 33.0 21 3 2 10 31 0
2002 Clearwater 1 2 3.51 0 29 0 0 51.1 56 26 20 20 37 0
2003 Clearwater 0 0 0.96 5 8 0 0 9.1 7 1 1 0 9 0
2003 Reading 3 2 3.76 5 34 0 0 52.2 54 23 22 17 17 6
2004 Clearwater 3 3 2.12 7 29 1 0 47.0 50 18 11 14 24 1
2004 Reading 1 1 3.18 0 12 1 0 23.0 25 9 8 6 15 3
2004 Scranton 1 0 2.84 0 4 0 0 6.0 8 2 2 0 2 0
Career 12 9 2.67 26 141 2 0 222.1 221 82 66 67 135 10

Acquired: Drafted out of Western Kentucky University in the 17th round of the 2001 Draft.

Repertoire: Hutchison's key pitch is his fastball. He has good sinking movement on it and he can generally spot it pretty well. His other pitches - curve, slider, change-up - all lag behind, but they've also all gotten better as he has continued to develop.

Pitching: Hutchison didn't allow a homerun in his first two professional seasons - 84.1 innings - and went another 9.1 innings at Clearwater in 2003 before he was promoted to Reading, where he finally gave up his first professional homerun. That's one of the keys to Hutchison. His fastball tails down and away from hitters and he knows how to keep the ball in the park. Since baseballs have an inclination to fly out of Citizens Bank Park, his ability to keep the ball down should play well. Hutchison doesn't always have pin-point control. His walk/strikeout ratio isn't awe inspiring.

Projection: Hutchison has overachieved. Reaching AA is always a key point for young players and he handled it with no problem. Even coming off of wrist surgery, Hutchison was certainly able to adjust and in fact move through the AA level with no problem. This will be a key season to see how he does at AAA, but the early returns from his short stint with Scranton last season were good and there's no reason to believe that Hutchison will stall now.

ETA: There is a definite chance that Hutchison will get a look this September. If not, he should certainly get some serious consideration coming into spring training of 2006. If both Hutchison and Geary are at AAA, it will be interesting to see which would get the first call to fill a bullpen void during the '05 season, especially if Hutchison is pitching the way he has in the past.

Comparison: There are some comparisons to Robb Nen of the Giants. Of course, Nen has been shelved with an injury for the past couple seasons, but both pitchers keep the ball down in the zone. Neither are overpowering pitchers, but both find a way to get hitters out. One key difference is that Nen has better control and can throw the ball by hitters when he needs to. That's something that's lacking in Hutchison and is the main reason why the Phillies don't really look at him as a closer of the future type pitcher.

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