Zaun: Everything has to go perfect for Hutchison to make Blue Jays

Blue Jays analyst Gregg Zaun says everything would have go perfectly for Drew Hutchison to even make the opening day roster, and thinks a change of scenery might be best for the talented, young pitcher.

The Toronto Blue Jays have some uncertainty surrounding their starting rotation heading into spring training.

While the majority of the staff from the 2015 season is back on the roster, pitchers such as Aaron Sanchez, Drew Hutchison, and newcomer Jesse Chavez have unclear roles.

Hutchison, who opened last season as the club’s No. 1 starter, is looking to rebound after a down year, but Sportsnet analyst Gregg Zaun doesn’t anticipate him making the major-league roster out of camp.

“When I look at where Drew [Hutchison] is on the depth chart, to me, he’s No. 7. If something happens, they’ll look to Sanchez as the fifth guy,” Zaun said Wednesday on The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “Sanchez is the sixth and Hutchison is the seventh. In a perfect world, he cleans up his mechanics. He’s throwing strikes with his fastball.

“Everything else will have to happen perfectly for him to make this team. Unless of course the Blue Jays have a major injury like they had with [Marcus] Stroman.”

Some have speculated that Hutchison, 25, could fill a role as a long-man in the bullpen if he doesn’t crack the No. 5 job in the rotation, but Zaun doesn’t believe it’s a logical fit.

“He doesn’t throw enough strikes for me,” said Zaun. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he did get a change of scenery [in a trade]. He might get a different pitching coach with a different message. Even just saying the same thing in a different way. He’s a competitor. He’s got off-the-charts make-up. He’s got stuff. He’ll be a heck of pitcher some day if he can get it clicking.”

Otherwise, Zaun likes the overall roster but still is bit skeptical of the make-up of the pitching staff.

“My biggest concern with the pitching is the fact they got five fly-ball [pitchers] in their rotation in a home run ballpark,” Zaun said. “If you look at the guys they brought back. [J.A.] Happ, he’s got to be better than he was before. You bring back Chavez. He’s got to be better. Part of [their success last season] has to do with where they were pitching. Anyone can get hot for a month like Happ [was] down the stretch for the [Pittsburgh] Pirates. He pitched well, but Happ is what he is. He hasn’t changed much. He lowered his arm slot a little bit and still pitches high in [the] zone and will give up a lot of fly balls and will give up a lot of home runs.

“Stroman, I’m still kind of up in the air on him. I don’t know what we’re going to see from him [in 2016] or where he’s going to go with his stuff. His fastball command has to get better.”

Based on the talent alone, Zaun expects the Blue Jays’ offence to be a major factor, but admits that the team doesn’t really have a lead-off hitter on the roster.

“Right now, short of taking a guy like Hutchison or taking some surplus you might have and trading for one, your guess is as good as mine,” Zaun said of the hole at the top of the batting order. “I’m a believer that Troy Tulowitzki has to hit in the middle of the line-up … [he] isn’t a lead-off guy. You need a high on-base percentage to be the lead-off guy. They don’t have one of those guys.

“A lot of people thought [Ben] Revere was that guy. He had a lot of hits, but a really low on-base percentage. Still hasn’t had 100 runs or driven in enough runs. He doesn’t score enough. He wasn’t a prototypical lead-off guy either.”