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2012 Fantasy Baseball Projections: Who the Heck is Colorado Rockies’ Josh Rutledge?

Sat, Aug 11, 2012

Player Projections

Josh Rutledge has done an admirable job filling in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop over the last month. Upon Tulowitzki’s return — which may or may not be this season — Rutledge will likely move to second base.

Rutledge’s performance thus far may win him a starting job for 2013. While he continues to hit, the fantasy baseball community wonders: Who the heck is Josh Rutledge?

Josh Rutledge was a third-round pick from Alabama in the 2010 draft. He spent his first full season of pro ball with Modesto (High-A) in the California League. In 523 at-bats he hit .348/.414/.517 with 51 extra-base hits — nine homers — and 16 steals in 19 attempts. This performance led Baseball America to rank Rutledge as the Rockies’ 10t- best prospect before this season, after being left out of the top 30 the year before.

The 23-year-old started the 2012 season with Tulsa (Double-A) of the Texas League. In 379 plate appearances, he hit .306/.338/.508 with 43 extra-base hits — 13 homers — and 14 steals in 18 attempts before making his major league debut with Colorado July 13.

He’s taken the promotion is stride, crushing opposing major league pitchers to the tune of .327/.343/.643 in 102 plate appearances with 17 extra-base hits — six homers — and three steals in as many attempts.

His current 162-pace yields 41 homers and 20 steals — obviously inflated numbers given the small sample size. He’s worth the ride for however long it lasts this season, but what’s his future fantasy outlook?

Here’s what Baseball America wrote about Rutledge this winter:

“Rutledge has outstanding hand-eye coordination and a compact stroke. He takes a quick, flat path to the ball and uses the whole field. He has the tools to hit for a high average with at least gap power. A solid runner, he can steal a few bases as well.”

Sounds about right. Given that he plays half his games at Coors, his hit and power tools receive a boost. He doesn’t walk much (three in 102 plate appearances with Colorado, 59 in 947 career minor league plate appearances), so if his bat cools, so will his run scoring and stolen base opportunities. Rutledge’s .329 BABIP is fairly high, but not out-of-this-world given BA’s scouting report on him. His 23.1 HR/FB ratio, however, is likely to drop — a lot. If Rutledge can maintain a league-average contact rate (80.0 percent, he’s current at 79.4 percent), he should be a .300 hitter with the help from Coors Field.

Looking forward to next season (and assuming he wins the second base job — which is a big assumption this far out), Rutledge is probably capable of hitting 15 homers and swiping 10-15 bases. Given a respectable batting average, those numbers make him an asset with second base and shortstop eligibility.

I can’t stress enough, however, how small the sample size we’re dealing with is. Rutledge could go 0-for-his-next-25 and find himself back in the minors (though that’s unlikely given Colorado’s lack of a better option). Then again, he could become a poor man’s Brandon Phillips or an enhanced Marco Scutaro. However you prefer to see it, he’s worth riding out for now and might even have value into next season and beyond.

Image courtesy of: Jim Strickland via Flickr

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