Rutledge moves to second base

In Friday's Rockies Notes column, I briefly mentioned that Josh Rutledge moved to second base for Thursday's game and will remain there for the rest of the season. Coming into the season scouts were skeptical about his ability to stay at shortstop, but that didn't stop me from ranking Rutledge as a top ten prospect in the system. 

Ultimately, the presence of Troy Tulowitzki makes Rutledge's ability to play shortstop moot. Still, it is a credit to Rutledge that in Tulowitzki's absence he broke into the majors as a shortstop even if advanced defensive metrics have Rutledge as a below average shortstop. Anyway, it was Rutledge's bat that got him to the majors in the first place. 

In 2011, Rutledge posted a 1.125 OPS in the second half with the Modesto Nuts. He continued to rake at Double-A this season as he hit .307 with 43 extra-base hits in 87 games with Tulsa before being called up to the majors, where he's performed even better at the plate. 

Entering Thursday, Rutledge's .399 wOBA (weighted on-base average) was good for 5th in all of baseball if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Of course, nobody was projecting Rutledge for that kind of success right out of the gate. Rutledge has just 177 plate appearances in the majors, so small sample size caveats apply here. It would be unreasonable to expect Rutledge to continue to perform at this level, but even with some regression to his BABIP (.355) he's likely to be one of the better offensive second basemen in the National League next year. 

Something to definitely keep an eye on with Rutledge is his patience at the plate. Coming into the season, his patience didn't seem like a problem or even something to watch. Rutledge walked in 7.8% of his plate appearances with Modesto last year, but has walked just 18 times in 134 games between Double-A and the majors. His strikeout rate is just 15.3% in the majors, which is fine as long as he adds a few more walks next year. 

Even if he doesn't add walks and proves to be nothing more than an average defensive second basemen, Rutledge figures to provide the Rockies with plenty of value over the next few years with his bat alone. 

Injury Note: 

Modesto Nuts outfielder Kyle Parker injured his left thumb last week in San Jose. The MRI results showed that Parker has a third-degree tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. Initially, the Modesto Nuts team doctor thought a return during the Cal League playoffs was possible, but after the results of the MRI it's certain that Parker will miss the rest of the season and the Arizona Fall League.

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