The Nationals have officially signed their first-round pick, Jackson Rutledge, to a $3.45 million deal just under the slot value of $3.61 million. The No. 17 overall pick pitched for San Jacinto College in Houston and entered the draft as a top 15 prospect.
Rutledge, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound right-handed pitcher surprisingly fell after scouts thought that he would be a top ten pick.
Rutledge’s biggest strength is easily his fastball. The righty is reportedly capable of hitting 99 miles per hour and typically sits in the 94-97 range. This is fantastic for a major league starter, but Rutledge is only 20 and theoretically could add strength and endurance as he develops.
Rutledge is far from a one-trick pony, as the 20-year old also has a plus slider, per MLB Pipeline. While it’s not quite as good as his fastball, it possesses decent movement and can generate swings-and-misses. When combined with an average curveball and an adequate changeup, Rutledge could have as many as four major league caliber pitches.
As is the case with taller pitchers, Rutledge struggles to consistently find the zone. While he offers great strikeout potential, Rutledge hands out too many free passes.
Rutledge is one of the best prospects in the 2019 MLB Draft. The 20-year old possesses ridiculous size and strength and uses his massive frame to throw one of the nastiest fastballs in the draft. Rutledge can already push triple digits and could theoretically improve with added development and professional coaching.
The San Jacinto product struggles to consistently find the plate, and that’s not likely to change at the professional level. Rutledge’s massive frame leaves little margin for error in terms of mechanics, so he cannot always find his marks.
That said, the good considerably outweighs the bad when evaluating Rutledge. He might have the best pure stuff in this year’s draft.