Name: Blake Rutherford
DOB: May 2, 1997
Batting and Power. Ruthefrord has all of the basics already in place to be a high-average hitter not only down the road but in the short-term too; above average or better bat speed, advanced pitch recognition, good plate discipline and patience, a very loose swing, and a consistent whole field approach. Throw in a never-waving confidence and together it all combines to scream consistent hitter. But while most baseball people agree there's no question he has the ability to hit, what is up for debate offensively is projecting his power long-term. He isn't the biggest guy around and he doesn't have the most projectable frame either so while he does impact the baseball better than most of his same-aged peers now, it remains to be seen how much more power could be tapped down the road. The safer bet projects the power to be average long-term but there is a chance it could tick a bit upwards as he gets stronger and learns to pull a few more pitches.
Base Running and Speed. Rutherford isn't a burner by an means either but he does show a tick above average speed overall and the kind of natural intelligence to perhaps be an elite station to station runner down the road. While the speed is more than adequate as are the on-base abilities, Rutherford, at least in the early going, doesn't appear to be all that aggressive stealing bases though. That aggressiveness should get better as learns to read opposing pitchers' moves better but it remains to be seen where the short-term memory will stand and if he will be a little extra gun-shy when getting caught. He has the wheels and ability to be a solid 20-30 stolen base guy, the question is will he be one.
Defense. Rutherford, as his tick above average running speed would indicate, is more adequate than standout defensively in centerfield. The range is average to above average but he makes for it with good field awareness and hustle, and the arm strength is average with the chance to tick above average as he continues to get stronger. From a pure profiling standpoint though the physical tools themselves indicate Rutherford would be better served in left field long-term where he could grade out as an above average defender whereas those same tools alone grade him as out as average in centerfield, but as other previous Yankee outfield prospects have shown in the past [Dustin Fowler, Jake Cave, and Ben Gamel to name a few] that profile can change with hard work and dedication.
Projection. Rutherford's less than plus speed and somewhat questionable long-term power projection makes him more of a 'tweener' at his core, one who might better project as an eventual big league reserve outfielder because he isn't [nor most likely ever will be] the best centerfield option nor has the bonafide above average power potential normally associated with starting big league corner outfielders either. However, while that is his floor from a speed-power perspective, what needs to be taken into account is his natural hitting ability. This kid was born to hit and has all the earmarks of potentially being one of the more consistent hitters around, the kind of bat that a manager wants in a lineup as often as possible. Like Fowler and Cave before him, Rutherford and the Yankees will work tirelessly in the ensuing years to improve his speed, range, and defense in the hopes of sticking in centerfield where the bat and power would project as plus tools with the hopes that the power will improve too, to the point where perhaps sliding over to left field wouldn't be an issue production-wise. It appears the power is more Fowler-like than Cave-like early on but he best compares to current top Red Sox prospect Andrew Benintendi as a hit-first, solid average power, above average defensive left fielder with modest stolen base abilities.
ETA. 2021. Rutherford's advanced bat could have him move pretty quickly through the minor leagues, especially after his first couple of seasons. He should open up the 2017 season in low-A Charleston and should be a mainstay in the RiverDogs lineup all year long. A solid season there could make him primed to move a lot quicker in following seasons but for now we'll project a one level per year track.