With their first round pick in the 2016 draft, the Yankees selected OF Blake Rutherford, who surprisingly fell to the Yankees who owned the 18th overall pick. Originally ranked the top-rated high school prospect in the draft, Rutherford was considered an option for the first overall pick but managed to slip way down where the Yankees were extremely happy to select him.
The number five Yankees prospect at the end of 2016 according to MLB.com (new rankings drop at the end of the month for 2017) turned 19 in May, just before the draft. Some saw that as a ding against him, but not the Yankees who paid him $3,282,000 which was a significant over-slot bonus, not to mention a club record for a position player.
Rutherford, a left-handed hitting outfielder, offers a smooth swing with significant power potential and very good bat speed. According to MLB.com, Rutherford needs to add some more loft to his stroke to fully reach his power potential.
In 33 games last summer (he also missed some time due to injury) Rutherford slashed .351/.415/.570 with three home runs, 12 RBI while adding eight doubles and four triples. 15 extra base hits over 114 at-bats is a great way to start a career!
(Photo: Shotgun Spratling / Los Angeles Times)
Besides his age, Rutherford’s outlook by many as a corner outfielder and his potential to not sign swayed some teams from taking him, but with the Yankees offer, they came to an agreement that worked out for everyone. As Keith Law has said, Rutherford can flat out hit and should move quickly through the lower levels of the minor leagues which will put his age concerns to rest shortly.
According to many scouts and fans, Rutherford is as sure a thing as there is to hit when it comes to younger players that it outweighs the other concerns.
Law also added:
“Two guys I know who scouted the Appalachian League thought he was the best hitter there, just in terms of pure hitting prowess and projection,”… He’s gonna hit for average and he’s gonna hit for power. He’s clearly a corner outfielder to me… I think he’s gonna hit for very high averages. I was aggressive in the ranking. I thought he was a top-five player at the draft. He went to an advanced league for someone right out of high school, performed well and impressed the scouts that saw him.”
Blake is one of my favorite Yankee prospects and is the kind of guy the Yankees, and all other clubs, should want out of their first round picks. He has a good approach and has showed he could adjust to pro ball fairly easy, although it was a small sample size. Rutherford, along with James Kaprielian (2015) and Aaron Judge (2013) are first round guys we need to be excited about.
Photo: NJ.com File Photo
Rutherford should play A-ball this spring and summer and although unlikely, some have speculated he could even get a taste of Double-A ball late this summer if he proves to handle A-ball pitching as well as he did rookie ball hurlers in 2016. I will closely be following Blake this summer and will keep our loyal readers informed of his progress.
Up next will be OF Aaron Judge, the Yankees number four prospect, who by now is a household name with his first real opportunity to make his mark in 2017.
BYB ‘Series’ Writer Follow me on Twitter:@DManLucia