If you have an autographed Norm Hutchins card lying around, I have some bad news: you’re headed back to work tomorrow morning.
How many of you out there remember Norm Hutchins, the switch-hitting outfielder that the Angels grabbed in the second round (40th overall) back in 1994?
Hutchins spent four years on the Angels’ top prospect list (as per Baseball America), enjoying his finest season in 1998 when in just 89 Double-A games, he scored 74 runs, smacked 20 doubles, 10 triples and 10 homers, while swiping 32 bases with a .312 BA. Power, speed, average…and he did it as a 22-year-old.
So what the hell was the problem?
Pretty simple, really. Despite all his raw talent and blazing speed, Hutchins suffered from a complete lack of understanding of the strike zone, a problem that afflicts many young hitters. His BB/K ratio from that season was an ugly 14/84.
Disturbingly enough, however, that line looked good compared to his previous season when Hutchins walked 23 times against 147 strikeouts.
It was a trend that continued and the Angels finally tired of it, sending Hutchins to Colorado in a 2000 trade. After the season, Hutchins was let go and he signed with the Rays as a free agent. He spent one season in the Tampa Bay organization before having to look for work again.
Hutchins’ last stand was an an Expo. Signed as a minor league free agent in January 2002, he was cut from the team near the end of spring training, and that was all she wrote for Hutchins in organized ball.
He spent all or parts of four seasons at Triple-A, but never got the call to the Show, somewhat surprising given his speed. You’d think he could have been a useful pinch runner one September.
At any rate, after getting axxed by the Expos, Hutchins switched to Indy ball, joining Elmira of the Northeast League. He spent the next four years bouncing around the Atlantic League, enjoying some strong years, including an All-Star season in 2005, but he never got another sniff from a big league team.
Now 31, Hutchins spent last season with Bridgeport, and I honestly don’t know if he’ll be back for another kick at the can this year. After batting just .230, slugging only .371 and managing a mere nine steals in 2006, it might be the end of the line for player who was once pegged as a future Angel in the outfield.
Oh, and that whole strike-zone judgment thing? Hutchins never did get over it, drawing only 21 walks against 67 Ks last season.