Thomas Hatch: Blue Jays 2020 Rookie Of The Year
During the pandemic shutdown, Thomas Hatch and his fiancée made a habit of heading to one of the many parks in the Highland Park area of Dallas.
The couple would go for a run, maybe enjoy a leisurely walk, and they’d bring along a net, which the 26-year-old righthander would then throw into to keep his arm in shape. Up until summer camp began in July, that was the extent of his baseball activities.
“I mean, she can't catch me and it’s tough to want to be around people during what was going on. So the net was my catch partner,” Hatch said. “It really was just me and the net for like two and a half months.”
Hatch’s training with his fiancée and the net turned out to be more than good enough. He won a spot on the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster.
No Toronto rookie contributed as consistently and as significantly as Hatch, who logged 26.1 innings over 17 appearances. He recorded a 2.73 ERA with 23 strikeouts against 13 walks, while doing everything from starting a game to getting high-leverage outs late in ballgames. He added two shutout innings in the playoffs.
Hatch’s emergence was not totally unexpected. He quickly earned notice from the front office after his acquisition from the Cubs for David Phelps at the 2019 trade deadline. Chicago had drafted him in the third round in 2016 out of Oklahoma State.
At the behest of then Double-A New Hampshire pitching coach Vince Horsman, Hatch began throwing his changeup more often, and it paired brilliantly with a high-spin fastball that averaged nearly 96 mph this season.
Along with a putaway slider, Hatch immediately found success and was an arm to watch coming into spring training, before the coronavirus pandemic hit. His expectations for 2020 “changed by the day.”
“Ultimately my repertoire and the way that I pitch, I think, can hold the role as a starter," Hatch said, ". . . I like to stay in the moment and know that I had one, two and maybe three innings (per outing) this year, and I'm ready to help my team.”
— Top prospect Nate Pearson, shortstop Santiago Espinal, catcher Alejandro Kirk and relievers Jordan Romano, Anthony Kay and Julian Merryweather also made notable contributions through a bizarre 2020 that included a postseason berth for the Blue Jays.
— The Blue Jays made a series of changes across the farm system for both financial and organizational reasons. Triple-A Buffalo manager Ken Huckaby, who ran the club’s alternate training site in Rochester, N.Y., was among those dismissed. His replacement is expected to be internal.
— Several pitchers who worked out of the Blue Jays' bullpen this year—including Thomas Hatch, Nate Pearson, Julian Merryweather, Anthony Kay and T.J. Zeuch—will work out this offseason as starters to compete for roles next year, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said.