2018 SSS Top Prospect ranking: 9
SSS rank among all right fielders in the system: 2
All Rutherford did in his senior season with Chaminade Prep H.S. (Canoga Park, Calif.) was slash .577/.676/.706 with 13 doubles, one triple, and hit four homers in 102 at-bats. At the time of the 2016 MLB draft, scouting reports were glowing: Keith Law said Rutherford had a “unique combination of hit and power and has shown an ability to spray well-hit balls to all fields,” while Baseball America wrote “some scouts see him as a potential power-hitting center fielder in the Jim Edmonds mold.”
As a result of his performance and scouting projections, the New York Yankees selected him in the first round (18th overall). After signing him to $3.282 million bonus to pry him from his commitment to UCLA, the Yankees had him play for two of their rookie league teams, where he combined to slash .351/.415/.570 in 130 at-bats.
Rutherford was off to a good, but unsensational start at Single-A Charleston as of July 19, 2017 — slashing .282/342/.391 with two homers, 30 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 25 walks (8.22%) and 55 strikeouts (18.09) in 274 at-bats — when he was traded along with Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo, and Tyler Clippard to the White Sox for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier. Rutherford struggled with his new squad in Kannapolis, slashing just .213/.289/.254 with just five doubles and five RBIs in 126 at-bats.
Promoted to Winston-Salem to begin 2018, Rutherford bounced back to hit .293/.345/.436 in 447 at-bats with 25 doubles, nine triples, seven homers, 78 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 34 walks (6.98%) and 90 strikeouts (18.48%). While it would’ve been nice to see Rutherford crack the double-digit mark in homers, it was great to see him considerably improve his slash line.
Rutherford is a solid outfielder with good range, and played all three defensive positions. According to most scouts, Rutherford’s tools rank from 50-55, so he doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses; with that said, he doesn’t have any off-the-chart tool, either. Rutherford does have legitimate power, though like Gavin Sheets, it hasn’t translated yet to games. He’s still just 22, so there’s still time for him to grow into his power.
Rutherford continues his aggressive climb through the White Sox system, playing at Birmingham this year, where he is 1.7 years younger than league average, making Double-A the most aggressive assignment of his career. Perhaps that aggressiveness has taken an early toll, as the right fielder is mired in what he’s calling “the worst slump of his career” (see below), hitting .185/.226/.291 with more than five strikeouts per walk to start 2019. Defensively, Rutherford already has four assists in right field, in just 222 innings, so Southern League teams have not gotten the scouting report on his arm quite yet.
Take a look!
Blake Rutherford is 2-for-2 tonight, with two singles because he gets nailed at second on this two-run single. He’s said he’s pretty much in the worst slump of his life but very determined to fix it this year pic.twitter.com/bssulv3C14— James Fegan (@JRFegan) June 1, 2019
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