SSS rank among all right fielders in the system: 3
2021 SSS Top Prospect Vote: 16
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 12
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 8
2018 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 9
Baseball America noted that some scouts saw Blake Rutherford as a possible “power-hitting center fielder in the Jim Edmonds mold” prior to the 2016 MLB draft. At this point, the White Sox might be happy with Rutherford as a right fielder in the Jim Eisenreich mode.
Rutherford was selected in the first round (18th overall) by the New York Yankees. By 2017, the lefty was playing for the Yankees A-squad in Charleston when he was traded with Ian Clarkin, Tito Polo and Tyler Clippard to the White Sox for David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle and Todd Frazier on July 31. That year, combined with Charleston and Kannapolis, Rutherford slashed .260/.326/.348 in 101 games with 25 doubles, two triples, two homers, 35 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 38 walks (8.6%) and 76 strikeouts (17.3%).
Rutherford enjoyed his best season to date in the Sox organization in 2018 with Winston-Salem, as he slashed a respectable .293/.345/.436 in 115 games with 25 doubles, nine triples, seven homers, 78 RBIs, 15 stolen bases, 34 walks (7.0%) and 90 strikeouts (18.5%).
However, in a far less favorable hitting environment in Birmingham in 2019, he slashed just .265/.319/.365 in 118 games with 17 doubles, three triples, seven homers, 49 RBIs, nine stolen bases, 37 walks (7.7%) and 118 strikeouts (24.6%). While those numbers admittedly weren’t all that good, it could’ve been much worse. Through the end of the May, he was slashing just .185/.228/.291. From June 1 on, something clicked and he hit a much more respectable .307/.370/.401. He did struggle versus strong competition in the Arizona Fall League after the season, slashing .179/.281/.385 with four doubles, three triples and two homers in 21 games. One thing to watch for in 2021 will be Rutherford’s splits, as he slashed .286/.337/.398 versus righties as opposed to just .216/.276/.291 against southpaws.
MLB Pipeline gives him 50 grades in all tool categories (run, hit, fielding and arm) except power (45). In actuality, Rutherford has plenty of power; he just hits way too many balls on the ground. In 2019 alone, he hit grounders 50.2% of the time, while hitting fly balls (30.3%) and line drives (19.6%) at much lower clips.
To his credit, Rutherford has worked hard to develop the power he’ll need to flash if he ascends to the majors as a corner outfielder, with Chris Getz saying last summer that beyond Andrew Vaughn, Rutherford was the most impressive hitter and power bat playing in Schaumburg.
Rutherford will return to the alternate site in Schaumburg to begin 2021, and will head south to Charlotte as the Knights’ starting right fielder in May.
If you’d like to get to know Rutherford a little better, here’s Blake talking with Sox TV about 2020 Hitters’ Camp in Glendale.