Welcome back to The K Zone. Today we dive into the life of the Nationals First Round Pick of 2019! Jackson Rutledge went 17th overall in 2019 and is looking forward to being a major arm in an organization that excels in developing Ace Pitchers. Get to know Jackson Rutledge before you see him on TV by reading the interview!
Mike Duffy: Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?
Jackson Rutledge: My favorite player was Adam Wainwright. He was the ace for the Cardinals growing up in St. Louis and he’s a great role model.
Mike Duffy: What was the atmosphere in studio 42 like on draft day?
Jackson Rutledge: The atmosphere was exciting but somehow relaxed. There was obviously a lot going on but everyone there seemed to be having a good time and enjoying all of it.
Mike Duffy: How did getting drafted feel for you? Was it extra special getting your name called by the commissioner?
Jackson Rutledge: It was an incredible feeling. I finally felt like all that I and my family had done paid off. Having the commissioner call my name was something you dream of but never think it would be you, so having him call me was awesome.
Mike Duffy: What are you most excited about joining the nationals?
Jackson Rutledge: The Nationals have a history of developing high-level pitching and getting them to the majors at a young age, so I’m excited to get a chance to be one of those players.
Mike Duffy: When did you first know you wanted to play professional baseball?
Jackson Rutledge: That had been my dream since I can remember. It only became somewhat realistic once I got to high school.
Mike Duffy: Have you always been a pitcher or did you use to play other positions?
Jackson Rutledge: I played some first base in high school but I was mostly a pitcher.
Mike Duffy: Do you have any dream purchases with some of your first bit of pro ball money?
Jackson Rutledge: Nothing special other than a car. Most likely going to save as much of that as I can for now.
Mike Duffy: Have you spoken to any of the guys playing in Washington? Who are you most excited to play with?
Jackson Rutledge: I got the chance to meet a few players when I went to DC to sign which was a very cool experience. I’m most excited to play with and learn from Max Scherzer.
Mike Duffy: Besides your hard work, is there anyone else you would like to thank who attributed to your success?
Jackson Rutledge: My family has definitely helped a lot to get me where I am. Also, all of the coaches I’ve had over the years from high school, travel ball, and everyone at San Jac.
Mike Duffy: What is your all-time favorite movie?
Jackson Rutledge: My favorite movie is either Anchorman or Shawshank Redemption.
Mike Duffy: What have been some of your favorite tv shows?
Jackson Rutledge: My favorite TV shows are the Office, Parks and Rec, and Brooklyn 99.
Mike Duffy: Any musicians that stick out to you?
Jackson Rutledge: My favorite musicians are Nas, Vince Staples, and Kendrick Lamar.
Mike Duffy: What song is currently stuck in your head?
Jackson Rutledge: I’ve had Fireball by Pitbull stuck in my head all week because that’s all we listen to in the GCL.
*Note* Due to server issues this was not released on time, all standings and statistics are as of April 28th
1.Houston Astros (16-11)
With the best record in their division and one of the best overall, it’s hard to not put Houston at the top. Altuve is playing an MVP again and the rest of the offense is clicking like they were in 2017. Brantley is looking like an amazing pick-up, so far slashing .315/.373/.533 in 92 AB. Even more impressive as his OPS (.905) is only 5th on the team as Bregman (.971), Reddick (.970), Springer (.936), and Altuve (.915) are all ahead of him. Their team AVG (.281) tops the majors and their team OBP (.356) is second. And that is to say nothing about the pitching staff. Verlander is looking to continue his success after his extension, starting the season with a 2.61 ERA. While Cole’s 5.22 ERA may cause some concern, his 2.70 FIP indicates that he should return to his all-star 2018 campaign form. Their bullpen also looks strong with a 2.96 ERA.
2.Tampa Bay Rays (18-9)
Tampa comes in tops in the MLB. The look ready to compete this year and with Boston struggling should have no problem winning a wildcard spot, maybe even their division if they keep up this level of play. Leading the offensive charge is just centerfielder Austin Meadows. So far this year his .351 batting average is 4th in the American league and has 6 homeruns, showing some pop in his bat. On the mound we see two separate pieces that are the reason this team has been as dominant as it is. Blake Snell is continuing to pitch well after his 2018 Cy Young campaign, and should have another successful season. We likely will not see another 1.89 ERA like we did last year but I would expect him to come in around 2.7-2.8 this year, even if it were higher as his FIP suggests, he’s not even the best on the roster. Tyler Glasnow has turned into an absolute lawnmower and the players are the blades of grass. He so far posts a 1.53 ERA and a 2.64 FIP. Expect there to be 2 Cy Young candidates coming out of Tampa. Their team 3.07 ERA is also tops the majors.
3. New York Yankees (17-11)
I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to put them lower but with the year they are having you have to give the Bronx bombers credit. While the offseason may seem to be disappointing to fans, not landing Machado or Harper, they drastically improved their rotation and bullpen. Additions of Ottavino and keeping Britton help improve an already strong relief core and signing Happ and getting The Big Maple help fix the ERA problem the Bronx Bombers had last year, and when Severino returns you can expect this rotation to become one of the top 10 in baseball. Their ability to have a 17-11 record despite only having half of their starting lineup during a stretch this month earns them this spot on this list. While I can’t yet put them above other AL powerhouses, it will be interesting to see what getting the likes of Judge and Stanton back do for this squad.
4. LA Dodgers (19-11)
While it’s hard to put them above the Cardinals (due to being swept by them in a four-game series) I would argue that the dodgers show more sustainable success. Bellinger is playing like an MVP, bouncing back from a somewhat disappointing sophomore year and is returning to his rookie days of homering on command and has the highest batting average in the majors at .426, over 40 points higher than second place Tim Anderson. As of right now, Bellinger leads the majors in home runs, on base percentage, slugging, runs, RBIs, and average. Easily the MVP of April. The rest of the offense is impressing as well, Joc Pederson sitting comfortably at 10 homeruns on the year and a .380 OBP. Seager looks to come back strong and Kiki Hernandez is looking like a versatile utility player. The reason I place them higher than the Cardinals comes with the rotation. The rotation to say the least has struggled. Other than Stripling who is so far posting an impressive 2.65 ERA, their starting staff does not look as sharp as it has in the past. Buehler specifically is hurting, posting a 5.25 ERA. His FIP suggests this should come down to high to mid 3s but with his impressive velocity and spin rate on his fastball I wouldn’t be surprised if he finished this year like his rookie one and post a sub 3 ERA. Kershaw also has only had 2 starts but has a 2.77 ERA in them, and while this number is lucky as he got knocked around a bit, he was able to come up clutch and prevent runs from going across the plate. He may no longer be the best pitcher in baseball but he likely will have another “down year” by posting a high 2s ERA. As of now the Dodgers are my pick to lose to an AL team in the World Series.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (17-10)
Obviously adding Paul Goldschmidt to the lineup was a big piece, and he will likely end up the best bat of the team, but their hottest hitter right now comes in the outfielder Marcel Ozuna. Ozuna leads his team in OPS at 1.010 (if he keeps this up Miami might have lost another MVP). He is only one piece of a very impressive lineup, DeJong and Kolton Wong are also turning into strong offensive threat. Their starting rotation is cause for concern, with Flaherty and Mikolas both posting and ERA over 5 so far. Their FIP does little to help their case, Flaherty and Mikolas posting a 5.01 and 6.04 respectively. On the bright side, their bullpen is a top 10 in the majors with a 3.84 collective ERA, and Jordan Hicks seems to be on the verge into turning into the next Chapman with his 104-mph heater.
6. Philadelphia Phillies (16-12)
Philadelphia is looking like the competitors they were hoping to be. Harper isn’t exactly putting up super star numbers but is fitting in perfectly with this Phillies offense. His .400 on base percentage should be around where he sits all year and helps put runners on for the Phillies perennial MVP candidate for years to come, Rhys Hoskins. Hoskins lead the majors in pitches seen per at bat, and continues to do so. His plate discipline combined with strong power and ability to put the ball in play make him a lethal player for the Phills and will likely be the make or break for their season. McCutchen and Segura are turning into strong offseason pickups, the latter being especially impressive. Segura comes in leading the Phillies in AVG at .324 and not only gets hits, but seems to always be over the score sheet with 13 R and 10 RBI in only 75 PA. The Phillies starting rotation is an interesting case, with arguably their two worst starters in the rotation are leading the team in ERA: Vince Velasquez and Jared Eickhoff. Eickhoff had an impressive rookie season way back in 2016, but since then has struggled with injuries and was looking doubtful if he would ever have success in the majors. His 2.77 ERA and 2.13 FIP indicate that he may be a strong candidate for comeback player of the year. Velasquez is currently an unsustainable ERA of 2.08, his FIP indicating that should increase sits at 4.19. Nola seemed to be a sign of concern, last years Cy Young candidate is currently posting a 5.68 ERA but seemed to have found his groove a few games ago after working out of a bases loaded jam in Colorado. If Nola can return to form and Eickhoff can complete the comeback this team will make some noise in October.
7. Cleveland Indians (15-11)
While the Indians sit second in their division, I have no doubt they will overtake the Twins. Their rotations thus far is posting a 3.55 ERA, and expect that only to improve when Clevinger returns. Trever Baur looks to continue to chase a Cy Young this year, so far having an ERA of 1.99. At first glance Corrasco’s 6 ERA would raise concern but his 2.70 FIP suggests he should return to his typical dominant self. The offense is suspect, with Carlos Santana being their strongest hitter so far. Their stars Lindor and Ramirez are struggles so far, but are coming off of injuries earlier might be affecting this. If the Indians want to compete this year their offense is going to need to supply come run support to this fantastic rotation.
8. Minnesota Twins (16-9)
The Twins are shocking everyone right now, and stand with the second-best record in the MLB. Jorge Polanco is swinging away and hitting everything he goes for, batting .337. Eddie Rosario is showing off the power he’s always had the potential to have, finishing this month with 11 home runs, topping the AL. The addition of Nelson Cruz has also added a potent power bat to the lineup. Their rotation is currently lead by Berrios, who has a 2.97 ERA. This rotation is the biggest cause for concern and the reason the Twins are not higher on this list, the rest of their starters all have ERAs over 4. Taylor Rodgers looks good in the pen but if they want to be serious competitors down the stretch we’re going to have to see more from their arms, starters and relievers
9. Milwaukee Brewers (15-14)
To be clear, the only thing putting the Brewers this high as of now is Christian Yelich. Yelich’s league tied 14 home runs, .353 AVG, and .460 OBP numbers are incredible. If Bellinger wasn’t making history of his own this would be the best April an NL player has had in recent memory. The Brew Crew does not have a set in stone rotation and I can see why, their team 5.19 ERA is 6th worst in the majors and are definitely a cause for concern. Even Josh Hader is showing some cracks in his normal unhittable self. Yelich will inevitable cool down, and when this happens the rest of the team needs to step up to support him for the team will just be watching in October.
10. New York Mets (14-13)
This second in the NL East squad is looking to come back after struggling recently this week. Going into the season they were expected to be a team carried by their rotation, but up until now it has been the bats winning games for them. Steve Matz is currently their best starter, thus far posting a 3.68 ERA. Syndergaard being the worst of them with a 6.35 ERA. The former sub 2 and Cy-Young winner Jacob DeGrom Is having difficulty as well with a 4.85. On the bright side, advanced statistics says that these pitchers are just getting very unlucky but none of them look like they are going to compete for the Cy Young this year. The bats are carrying this team, especially rookie of the year candidate Pete Alonso. Alonso was given the call up based off of availability and wasn’t expected to be a top prospect but is thundering his was into the majors. His team leading 9 home runs, .306 AVG, and .398 OBP secured a scary first baseman for the Mets that pitchers will fear in the middle of their lineup. Robinson Cano is struggling so car, only posting a .324 OBP but hopefully this improve and him and Alonso can create a dangerous righty lefty combo. Diaz, their other large acquisition, is looking as dominant as ever. The only pitcher I’ve seen have an ERA tie his WIP, Edwin Diaz has both at a .84. Unfortunately for the Mets he is being used only as strictly a closer, but should still provide a lights-out 9th inning on the road when up by 1 for the Mets.
A claim that right field is the best position in baseball would not be hard to defend. The position is ripe with superstars at the top, and shows strong depth at the end. Despite the competition, Mookie Betts was chosen unanimously for the top spot. Had it not been for Mike Trout, he would have won MVP last season for his 10.4 WAR, which comes from a .346 BA, 185 wRC+, and 33/30 power/speed total, and 20 DRS. Mookie’s rival Aaron Judge snags the second overall spot with his power and eye. He continued his 2017 success last year with 27 home runs and a .392 OBP in only 112 games. Recent Phillies’ super-acquisition Bryce Harper comes in third. While defensive woes have hurt his holistic numbers, he still had a .393 OBP last year, just above his career .389 mark. The season before that he slugged almost .600 too. In a testament to the overall strength of the position, reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich falls to fourth, after being worth 7.6 WAR last season. Critics point to a likely unsustainable BABIP and fly ball rate, but his OPS of exactly 1.000, complementing his 22 stolen bases, tell a very strong story. Dodgers’ batter Cody Bellinger shattered NL rookie power records two seasons ago, but took a slight hit last year. He was still worth 3.6 WAR and 120 wRC+, though. Mitch Haniger broke out with the Mariners in 2018, with 138 wRC+ and 4.6 WAR in his first full season in the majors. If he can become more consistent on a month-to-month basis, he could join the “most underrated players” list next year. Speaking of underrated talent, Brandon Nimmo is far from a household name, but the seventh best overall right fielder had 149 wRC+ in 2018, mostly due to 15.0% walk rate and .404 OBP. After six up and down seasons with the Dodgers, Yasiel Puig was traded to Reds over the offseason. In Cincinnati, he probably hopes to get close to his 2017 numbers, where breakout defense and good offense and baserunning fed into a 2.9 WAR. Tigers’ asset Nicholas Castellanos comes in ninth, scoring at 130 for wRC+ and putting up 3.0 WAR, albeit with a .361 BABIP. Lastly, rebound candidate Adam Eaton hopes to help the Harper-less Nationals keep pace in 2019. He’s missed the majority of the last two seasons due to injury, but hit .301 in the at bats he did make, and has been worth up to 5.9 WAR per season in the past.
Center field has become a mix of the continuation of the tradition of the defense-first field commander, and the 5-tool powerhouse. Not much has to be said about unanimous #1 pick Mike Trout, as any half decent baseball fan knows enough about him, but it would be safe to say that he would be a Hall of Famer if he retired today, and he may have just had the best season of his career. As hard as it is to follow up Trout, Lorenzo Cain does a pretty good job. His 5.7 WAR, propelled by 20 DRS, set a career high, and made his $80 Million contract a worthy investment for the Brewers. George Springer is a core component of an Astros team that’s trying to make themselves a dynasty. He had a down season in 2018 but still put up 2.9 WAR, and hopes looks to rebound to his 140 wRC+ days of the year before. Aaron Hicks continues to fly under the radar as one of the most underrated players in baseball, staying in the shadow of other star Yankee outfielders despite his 7 year extension from this preseason. The five-tooled Hicks was worth 4.9 WAR last year despite a .264 BABIP, and he put up a 3.3 total in only 88 games the year before that. Charlie Blackmon put together an MVP-level campaign in 2017, but fell off a little last season, albeit still hitting 29 homers for 2.9 WAR last year in Coors. As bad as Blackmon’s problems were last season, Starling Marte had it worse two years ago, being suspended 80 games for a positive PED test. Marte, however, rebounded in a full season last year with a 20/33 season and 3.7 wins above replacement. A.J. Pollock has also had trouble staying on the field, in his case for health reasons. The Dodgers took a $60 Million dollar chance on him over the offseason, hoping he can replicate some of the numbers he’s put up in full seasons in the past, including his 6.8 WAR 2015. Ender Inciarte and his incredible has paid dividends to the Braves for a few years now. Last year, he totaled 17 DRS. New Mariners center fielder Mallex Smith comes in ninth on the list after a great 2018, when he stole 40 bases and posted a .367 OBP with 3.4 WAR. Finally, the inconsistent enigma of Jackie Bradley Jr. ranks tenth. He hit only .234 last year, but still was worth 2.8 WAR, and if he can expand one of his extreme hot streaks to a seasonal scale, he could easily jump into consideration for a very high spot next year.
Left field saw two prominent additions mid way through 2018. Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuna Jr. had 143 wRC+ in 111 games last year, complimented by a power speed combo to the tune of 26 home runs and 16 steals. His runner up, Juan Soto, also smashed already high expectations putting up a .406 OBP with 22 home runs in just 116 games of his own. The group was joined by sophomore (now junior) Red Sox outfield Andrew Benintendi, whose solid .290/.366/.465 line with 4.4 WAR helped lead his team to a world series victory. Tommy Pham has broken onto the scene ever since his now famous corrective eye surgery. A rough first half led him to be dealt to Tampa Bay, but he excelled at the Trop, with a massive 191 wRC+ and 2.5 WAR in only 39 games after the trade. Michael Conforto has a high ceiling, but has had trouble staying healthy enough to realize it. 2018 was his first full year, and despite a low batting average, he carried a .350 OBP with a very respectable 28 home runs. Michael Brantley is a long ways off from his 2014 MVP campaign, but he did manage a hardy 3.5 WAR with Cleveland before signing with the Astros int the offseason. The same goes for Andrew McCutchen, the #7 left field, who despite being far removed from his MVP days remains one of the most consistent hitters on the field. The new Philly had a .368 OBP last year, a number that has only dipped below .360 once in his career, and he continues to put up enough power to total 120 wRC+. David Peralta comes in next. His unforeseen power breakout last year helped him produce 3.8 WAR, as he hopes to continue the surge into the coming season. Veteran outfielder Justin Upton continues to hit for pop (30 home runs) and run for speed (8 stolen bases). His 2018 did not come close to 5.2 WAR performance the year before, but Upton has not played fewer than 149 games since 2009, so the Angels can expect strong output from him no matter what. Finally, young Cub Kyle Schwarber rounds out the rankings. Schwarber had a Votto-esque 15.3% walk rate last season and hit 26 home runs in only 137 games, a number that should continue to grow as he matures.
Third base has become by far the deepest position in baseball, with player not even making the overall list that who could place near the top at other positions. Almost all ranked players are good enough to make an argument for number overall, but the blog ended up voting for Cleveland corner Jose Ramirez. Ramirez remains underrated after amazing in 2018 with a Trout-like 39 bombs, 34 steals, 146 wRC+, and 8.0 fWAR. #2 third baseman Alex Bregman, who we even outhit Ramirez with 157 wRC+, comes in second with a .394 OBP and 7.6 fWAR. Manny Machado, who played shortstop in 2018 but is moving back to third after signing for 300 million dollars with San Diego, now ranks third. Machado hit 37 home runs and stole 14 bases in 2019 with 141 wRC+, totaling up to 6.2 fWAR. He is followed by Nationals star (at least until the end of the season) Anthony Rendon, who topped 6 WAR and 140 wRC+ for the second year in a row in 2018. An outstanding 38 home runs, the least in four years, bring recent extendee Nolan Arenado to the fifth overall spot. While his defense dropped off a little last year, it remains good enough to bring him his third year in a row of 5 fWAR or above, 5.7 in 2018. The star glove of Oakland’s Matt Chapman carries him to the sixth spot after his 6.5 WAR sophomore year. 29 DRS wasn’t his whole game though, and he also had and extremely strong 137 wRC+. Former MVP Kris Bryant is #7, as despite experiencing a power outage, he gave the Cubs a .374 OBP, and hopes to rebound to his old form, when he put of three consecutive seasons of 6 wins above replacement. Dodgers’ hot corner hitter Justin Turner has had injury issues, but is a superstar when healthy, as shown by his .312/.406/.518 line and 154 wRC+. He places eighth. Veteran utilityman Matt Carpenter earned ninth overall slashing .257/.374/.523 last year. His OBP has not dipped below .365 for eight years and he just set a career high with 36 home runs as a 33-year-old. Eugenio Suarez hopes to improved even further off his 2017 breakout last year, when he hit 34 homers with a .366 on base percentage and 135 wRC+, just a tad below Carpenters’ numbers. He hopes help lead a new era of Reds offense in the coming year. Of course, no third base roundup would be complete without mention of superprospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. While he didn’t make any list today, he could become a mainstay as soon as the coming season.
After experiencing an influx in a rookies a few seasons ago, shortstop has surprisingly become a beacon of young offensive talent. The position is highlighted by unanimous number one Francisco Lindor. He will miss the first month of the season on the IL, but he keeps the spot due to his 7.6 fWAR, 38 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and 14 DRS in 2018. Corey Seager barely played last year, but he was still selected for the second spot due to his remarkable consistency in the two before that. In 2016, he slashed .308/.365/.512 with 7.0 fWAR, and in 2017 his line read .295/.275/.476 with 5.9 fWAR. Infamous PTBNL Trea Turner ranks third. The speedster led the NL with 43 stolen bases in 162 games in 2018, and, while he hit a respectable .271, he hopes he can regain some of the hitting ability he showed when he hit .342 as a rookie. The still-young Carlos Correa follows Turner. Despite an awful 2018 in which he batted .239, he was an MVP candidate the year before with 152 wRC+ and 5.2 fWAR in only 109 games. Fifth overall is Andrelton Simmons, whose defensive wizardry (21 DRS last year, and he has never dipped below 19 in a season) brought his fWAR up to 5.5 last season for the Angels. After falling out from his 2016 power super-breakout, people thought Trevor Story was done by the end of last season. But, he proved the general public wrong last year when he hit 37 homers and stole 27 in Denver. Boston shortstop Xander Bogaerts had his strongest season yet in 2018, with 133 wRC+ and 4.9 fWAR. The pending free agent has had a WAR over 4.6 for three of the past four years. Despite his breakout, Javier Baez sits at eighth on the table, likely due to criticism of his high BABIP and low walk rate. Still, he put up strong totals with 34 home runs and 21 stolen bases. Yankees SS Didi Gregorius comes in at #9. His 1.156 April OPS was one of the best in history, although he fell off later in the season, and will miss considerable time in 2019. Finally, Phillies acquisition Jean Segura ranks tenth after hitting over .300 for the third consecutive year and stealing 20 bases for the sixth.
Second base scored as one of the weaker offensive positions on the diamond last year, but that didn’t stop us from filling the list with interesting names for next year. Despite falling from MVP candidacy to “mere all-star level,” Jose Altuve still leads the second base list with a .316 batting average and a power/speed combo that can threaten a 20/20 season, or better. Speedy Royal Whit Merrifield takes over the two spot, batting .304 with 45 stolen bases in 2018, a count that led an MLB that is emphasizing speed less and less. Underrated Reds’ keystone Scooter Gennett took home the three-spot after batting .310 last season. His modest yet distinct power broke out a couple seasons ago, and he smashed 23 home runs last year. #4 second baseman Ozzie Albies astonished in April, when he hit nine home runs with a 158 WRC+ mark. He fell back in the second half, but hopes to once again lead the Braves early and throughout the season in 2019. Brian Dozier had a down year last season, marked by a .240 BABIP, but he still hit 21 home runs with 12 steals. Dozier had 5.0 fWAR in 2017, and 6.2 the year before that. Gleyber Torres, entering his sophomore season with the Yankees, had a very solid season at the dish and ticketed third in AL Rookie of the Year Voting with a line of .271/.340/.480 in 123 games. He places sixth, just ahead of veteran Robinson Cano, who was dealt crosstown from Gleyber to the Mets over the offseason. Last year with the Mariners, Cano managed a .303 batting average with 2.9 fWAR in a season that was cut in half by a PED suspension. Another sophomore, Rays second baseman Joey Wendle, finished eighth on our overall chart. While his .353 BABIP draw criticism, it’s impossible the to overlook his .300 BA, strong speed and defense, and 3.7 total fWAR. Cesar Hernandez occupies our nine hole, coming off a season in which he got on base at a .354 clip and went 15/19 on home runs and steals. Finally, the 38-year-old Ben Zobrist rounds out the top ten. After rebounding from a horrid 2017, Zobrist put up 3.6 fWAR backed up by a .303 BA and .378 OBP.