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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 34: Blake Rutherford

Is he an ideal corner outfielder in the White Sox mix? This would be the year to make that happen.

No two ways about it, while still young, 2022 is the year for Blake Rutherford to make a move out of Charlotte.
Sean Williams/South Side Sox

Blake Rutherford

Left Fielder
205 pounds
Age: 24
2018 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 9
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 8
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 12
2021 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 14
SSS rank among all left fielders in the system: 1

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 center fielder in the Jim Eisenreich mode.

Rutherford was selected in the first round (18th overall) by the Yankees. By 2017, the lefty was playing for New York’s 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 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, Rutherford 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, Rutherford was slashing just .185/.228/.291, but 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 regular season, as he slashed .179/.281/.385 with four doubles, three triples and two homers in 21 games. In order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, the White Sox added him to the 40-man roster in December 2019.

After missing the 2020 season due to the pandemic shutdown, Rutherford had a lot to prove in 2021, getting his first shot at Triple-A. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as he hoped. In 115 games for Charlotte, Rutherford slashed .250/.286/.404 with 30 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, four stolen bases, 21 walks (4.4%) and 119 strikeouts (25.0%). Despite reaching career highs in doubles and round-trippers, the results seemed underwhelming when realizing that half of Rutherford’s games were played in hitting-friendly Truist Field. Rutherford’s wRC+ was just 80, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was nearly 6-to-1. As it has been throughout his career, Rutherford fared better against righties than southpaws (.221/.270/.374).

Rutherford does have one option remaining, so the White Sox won’t be required to either put him on the major league roster or risk losing him until next year (which is the decision the team soon has to make regarding teammate Micker Adolfo). Rutherford is just 24, which means he has still has a little time to figure things out. One positive sign: Every year prior to 2021, Rutherford’s ground ball rate exceeded 50%; in 2021, it fell to 45.4%, which explains the increase in doubles and homers. However, he’ll need to expand upon that progress in 2022 if he plans to be a factor in future White Sox lineups — even as a fourth outfielder or platoon player.

MLB Pipeline gives Rutherford 50 grades for fielding and running, 45 grades for hitting and throwing and a 40 grade for power. He has played all outfield positions regularly but seems better suited for left and center field due to a relatively weak arm. Thus, he has a chance to be at minimum a reserve outfielder in the majors — all Rutherford has to do is produce better all-around numbers offensively with the Knights in 2022.

2022 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

34. Blake Rutherford, LF
35. Anderson Severino, LHRP
36. DJ Gladney, 3B
37. Luke Shilling, RHRP
38. Chase Krogman, LF
39. Cristian Mena, RHSP
40. Benyamín Bailey, LF
41. Tyler Johnson, RHRP
42. Andrew Perez, LHRP
43. Tyler Neslony, LF
44. Theo Denlinger, RHRP
45. Hunter Schryver, LHRP
46. Jefferson Mendoza, C
47. Harvin Mendoza, 1B
48. Gil Luna Jr. LHRP
49. John Parke, LHSP
50. Victor Quezada, 3B
51. Haylen Green, LHRP
52. Sammy Peralta, LHRP
53. Yoelvin Silven, RHRP
54. Taylor Broadway, RHRP
55. Noah Owen, RHRP
56. Luis Curbelo, 3B
57. Bryce Bush, RF
58. James Beard, CF
59. Xavier Fernández, C
60. Wilber Sánchez, SS
61. Kohl Simas, RHRP
62. Johan Dominguez, RHSP
63. Jagger Rusconi, 2B
64. Ronaldo Guzman, LHSP
65. Laz Rivera, 3B
66. Adam Hackenberg, C
67. Will Kincanon, RHRP
68. Lane Ramsey, RHRP
69. Tommy Sommer, LHSP
70. Randel Mondesi, RF
71. Shawn Goosenberg, 2B
72. Zack Muckenhirn, LHRP
73. Cameron Butler, CF
74. Godwin Bennett, RF
75. Logan Glass, CF
76. Dario Borrero, 1B
77. Craig Dedelow, RF
78. Carlos Hinestroza, RHRP
79. Gunnar Troutwine, C
80. Kade Mechals, RHSP
81: Caberea Weaver, CF
82. Layant Tapia, SS
83. Homer Cruz, RHRP
84. Kaleb Roper, RHSP
85. Jerry Burke, RHSP
86. Emerson Talavera, RHRP
87. Isaiah Carranza, RHSP
88. Davis Martin, RHSP
89. Tyler Osik, 1B
90. Samil Polanco, 3B
91. Manuel Veloz, RHRP
92. Pauly Milto, RHRP
93. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
94. Colby Smelley, C
95. Manuel Guariman, C
96. Everhett Hazelwood, RHRP
97. Garrett Schoenle, LHRP
98. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
99. Anderson Comas, RF
100. Jake Elliott, RHRP