Author Topic: Follow the Prospects: Jackson Rutledge, RHP  (Read 2972 times)

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Offline welch

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Re: Follow the Prospects: Jackson Rutledge, RHP
« Reply #25: August 07, 2021, 10:48:00 AM »
A bit more on Rutledge, from Joey LoMonaco in Fredericksburg paper

here isn’t just one thing that distinguishes Jackson Rutledge from your typical Low-A pitcher.

There’s the fastball, which touches 97 mph with a regularity bordering on blasé.

There’s the expectations inherent to his status as a first-round draft pick.

And, then, of course, there’s the fact that he stands 6-foot-8.

“He’s built the way a pitcher should be built,” Fredericksburg Nationals pitching coach Pat Rice said.

The tall order awaiting Rice and the Washington Nationals’ player development staff, then, is simple: take Rutledge, still a chiseled slab of potential at 22, and sculpt him into a major-league pitcher.

Rutledge has been with the FredNats for just under two weeks. His assignment to Fredericksburg follows an uneven stint in High-A Wilmington to start the season, a bout of shoulder inflammation and a subsequent rehab with the Gulf Coast League Nationals in Florida.

As fellow right-hander Cade Cavalli, Washington’s 2020 first-round draft pick, clambers up the minor-league ladder in brisk order, reaching Double-A Harrisburg last month, Rutledge has endured his share of false starts. He split his rookie season in 2019 between short-season Auburn and Hagerstown, posting a 3.13 ERA and limiting opponents to a .169 batting average.

Now he's back on the Injured List, however briefly, with a finger blister.

Fortunately for Rutledge, the Nationals organization isn’t in the business of comparing prospects. Each player learns at his own rate and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

“No career path is similar,” said Mark Scialabba, Washington’s assistant general manager, player development. “Some are linear and some are not.”

Rutledge’s arc is circuitous as they come. He committed to the University of Arkansas out of high school, only to suffer a hip injury and transfer to San Jacinto (Texas) Junior College, the same school that produced former FredNats hurler Mitchell Parker.

When the 2020 minor league season fell victim to COVID-19, Rutledge was among those prospects selected to join Washington’s alternate site at FredNats Ballpark. By all accounts, he excelled while surrounded by big league-adjacent talent.

“He has tremendous upside,” Scialabba said. “He’s someone that’s physically gifted with a powerful arm. He’s shown flashes of having two or three plus secondary offerings that we believe in.”

Rutledge’s current repertoire consists of four pitches: a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. The first two have already proven capable of dominating Low-A East hitters.

“His stuff has a sharpness to it that we don’t see here, to be honest with you,” Rice said.

Stuff doesn’t always equate to success, however. In Wilmington, Rutledge’s ERA ballooned to 12.66 in four starts, with opponents hitting .370 against him.

“The concentration of good hitters increases every level you go up,” Rutledge said. And that’s something I’ve had to adjust to.”

Command is a watchword for Rice when it comes to Rutledge’s progress, and his two starts in a FredNats uniform demonstrated why that’s the case.

In his first appearance, Rutledge allowed seven runs on six hits in a July 23 loss to Salem. Six days later, he gave up just two hits and struck out seven to earn his first victory of the season.

“The second time out was just about putting the ball where I wanted it in the zone, getting swings that I wanted to, swings that I knew those hitters would take and being able to execute,” he said.

When Rutledge reported back to FredNats Ballpark, this time following a demotion, Rice tried to impart some perspective. He’d faltered in Wilmington, sure, but this was an opportunity to reset—not to rue slow progress up to this point.

“Obviously, I would love to be in a higher level right now,” Rutledge said. “But the truth is, I need to get better at things, and I am getting better at things.

“I’ve got to find that rhythm and tempo within a season. I know the organization believes in me, and they have confidence that I’m going to be more than a Low-A player.”