2019 MLB Draft Preview: Jackson Rutledge scouting report
The 2019 MLB Draft is less than two weeks away — the first round kicks off on June 3, 2019 — so its time to start offering capsule looks at players the Texas Rangers could select with their top picks. The Rangers’ first round pick is at #8, their second round pick is at #50, and they have Milwaukee’s competitive balance pick, acquired in the Alex Claudio trade, which is #41.
Leading up to draft day, we will be doing writeups of some of the players who could end up getting selected by the Rangers with one of their first three picks. Today, we are looking at San Jacinto Junior College righthanded pitcher Jackson Rutledge.
Jackson Rutledge is a 6’8” (!), 260 lb. (!) righthanded pitcher who went undrafted out of high school in 2017, despite being fairly well regarded (he was #183 on Baseball America’s top 500 list), due to his bonus demands and the sense he was definitely going to the University of Arkansas. He barely pitched at Arkansas as a freshman, and transferred to San Jac, where he has taken a huge step forward this year as a sophomore. Rutledge sits in the mid-90s and touches 99, and both his slider and his curveball are seen as potential plus pitches.
There seems to be a consensus that Rutledge is one of the top 3 or 4 pitchers in this year’s draft. Baseball America has Rutledge at #14 on their board, raving about his pure stuff and complimenting the strides he has made with his control. MLB Pipeline has Rutledge at #13 on their board, while Fangraphs has him at #22, comparing him to Nate Pearson. Keith Law puts Rutledge at #15 on his board.
Rutledge has been identified as a potential below-slot target at #8 for the Rangers in recent mock drafts, though I haven’t seen any of the major services actually mock him to Texas yet. MLB Pipeline’s most recent mock has Rutledge going to the Braves at #9, with their comp pick for not signing Carter Stewart (who reportedly just agreed to a deal with a JPL team, and thus will not be the subject of one of these capsule reports). Keith Law has Rutledge going to the Twins at #13, while BA has him going to the Mets at #12. Fangraphs mocks Rutledge to the Jays at #11.
Rutledge, as a 20 year old JuCo guy who is a draft-eligible sophomore due to not being at a four year school, is younger and has more upside potential than you generally see from college pitchers. With his size and stuff, you can imagine him being a #2/#3 guy with some improvement in his command and his changeup. That said, tall pitchers often struggle to repeat their mechanics well enough to improve their command, and improving his changeup is easier said than done here. There’s a bunch of upside here, but also a bunch of reliever risk. In addition, if he keeps moving up the draft boards, he may not be inclined to take enough of a discount at #8 for the Rangers to feel a below-slot deal for him at that point makes sense.