Today we continue on our look at Today’s Knuckleball Almost Mock Draft Revisited. The first two profiles highlighted the top pick in the MLB Draft — Mickey Moniak — and the second pick, Nick Senzel. Both have performed very well in their debuts. Blake Rutherford, however, who went outside the top ten, may be performing the best of the first rounders.
Almost Mock: Outside top ten (possibly No. 8 if San Diego didn’t choose Moniak) | Actual MLB Draft: 18th overall — New York Yankees
Rutherford entered the 2016 season as arguably the top high school prospect in America. He garnered national attention with two consecutive performances on the USA U18 team, including leading the squad in home runs on their gold medal run in Japan. That translates to a young player who can perform against top competition.
To no fault of his own, scouts became enamored with Mickey Moniak and many felt Rutherford slipped a few notches. Some pointed to his age as a factor, being a 19-year-old senior. Rutherford had a terrific high school finale, batting .435 with four home runs and nine stolen bases, however expectations were high and because he was a bit more mature both physically and mentally, his outstanding numbers didn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations.
The New York Yankees — amid their youth movement — are reaping the rewards, with the steal of the first round and a player who has arguably the highest ceiling in the draft. Thus far in Pulaski, he has shown why.
The Yankees knew they had a steal in Rutherford, and whether it was to keep him away from his commitment to UCLA or to reward him for the player they think he will become, they locked him up for a Yankees record $3.282-million signing bonus, nearly $800,000 over projected slot value. So far he has been worth every penny.
Rutherford excels in each of the five tools that make one an all-around player. He stands at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, so he has the projectable frame to become a lethal power hitter, something he already has shown on the high school level. He has a level, fluid left-handed swing — arguably the prettiest in the first round — that his hands move very quickly through the zone, and thus shows that he can also hit to all fields and not become simply a power hitter. He has an advanced feel at the plate and has shown early signs of being able to control the strike zone. He had speed in high school, which in turn made him a centerfielder, however he has thus far been underwhelming on the base paths.
He started his professional career in the Gulf Coast League, and while the numbers don’t scream out success, his eight-game stay there showed promise. He struck out six times and walked four in his 25 at-bats. On July 12, Rutherford went 3-for-4 with his first career home run. On July 14, he was promoted to Pulaski.
Now in the Appy League, Rutherford has been a man possessed. He is currently slashing .408/.459/.645 which has certainly been benefitted by a .500 BABIP, but it shows he is making consistent, hard contact. He is striking out at a bit of a high rate (currently 18.8 percent), but many of those came in bunches over his first games of his promotion, having not struck out in his last nine games.
Rutherford especially caught fire on July 27. That night he registered his first career four-hit game, going 4-for-5 and falling a home run short of the cycle. The very next evening, he registered his second career four-hit night, going 4-for-5 with his second triple in as many days. After leaving the game early going 1-for-1 the following evening, Rutherford came back with consecutive two-hit performances.
For more on the Yankees first rounder, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below: