Written By: Nathan Hutchinson
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Nationals No.3 Prospect Jackson Rutledge RHP 21 Years Old
Bats: Right – Throws: Right – Ht: 6’8 Wt: 250Ibs – ETA: 2022
A 2019 first-round pick, Jackson Rutledge has become one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. After going undrafted in 2017, Rutledge pitched a year in the SEC for Arkansas before transferring to San Jacinto where he had a monster season and he flew up draft boards.
The Nationals selected Rutledge 17th overall and he began his pro career in rookie ball, making 1 start before being promoted to short-season A ball, where he again made 3 starts before being promoted to full-season A ball. He finished 2019 making 6 starts in full-season A ball where he found some success. Entering 2020, Rutledge was a spring training invite but didn’t make an appearance; he then was apart of the Nationals 60 man player pool for the short 2020 season.
At 6’8, you’d expect Rutledge to have a good fastball and indeed Rutledge does. High 90s velocity with deception and high spin rate is a combination that could allow Rutledge to have one of the best fastballs in the league. He pounds the zone and generates tons of swing and miss both up in the zone and down. He can sometimes struggle with the movement patterns of the pitch, adding some unwanted sink at times
Rutledge’s second-best pitch and his go-to strikeout pitch is his slider. With high 80s velocity and late bite Rutledge has a good feel for missing bats and generating weak contact with the pitch. Rutledge has begun to use more of an analytical approach and it’s helped his slider tunnel off his fastball better. Entering 2021, I’d expect the K numbers to rise with an added emphasis on tunneling his pitched
A pitch that has potential but may develop because Jackson Rutledge may not need it to be a factor. Currently, it’s used as a secondary pitch to show hitters a different look, but it’s flashed some good shape and nice downer action vs both LHB and RHB.
Jackson Rutledge’s 4th pitch is his changeup, a 35 current grade may be too low but until he shows consistency with his arm speed and it’s shape it won’t be anything more than a different look. It’s a useable pitch at times and can often flash some potential. Consistency will be key for the changeup to continue to develop.
COMMAND – CONTROL – MECHANICS
Someone 6’8 250Ibs shouldn’t be able to move the way that Jackson Rutledge does. An up and down delivery that is smooth, compact and that generates tons of power is exactly what you’d want from a tall power pitcher. His arm action is short and deceptive, the ball often looks like it’s coming out of his shoulder and explodes on to hitters. He needs to develop more consistency with repeating his delivery, which in turn should help him with creating more consistency with his pitches.
FUTURE VALUE: 50+
A lot of upside with Rutledge, 2 potential plus pitches, and 2 more that flash average to above-average. If everything goes right, he’s a frontline rotation starter who racks up the Ks. And even if he struggles with command or consistency, his floor as a leverage reliever is a potential outcome.
You can read the rest of the Nationals Top 20 Prospects HERE