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Analysis: Despite a minor league system marred with injury, RHP Jackson Rutledge's success has flown under the radar
With Washington Nationals RHP pitching prospects Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry getting a lot of attention, RHP and Washington Nationals 2019 first-round draft pick Jackson Rutledge has been flying under the radar.
The Nationals have consistently had a hard time developing minor league pitching into major league success. Three older examples are Lucas Giolito (who only found success on the White Sox), Taylor Jordan (remember him), and Erick Fedde (not terrible, but not good enough for a first-round pick). Despite this, the Nationals were gifted with three more pitchers, all extraordinarily talented: Jackson Rutledge, Cade Cavalli, and Cole Henry.
Rutledge debuted in '19 (two years before the other two), and was pretty good with an ERA around 3, and rising to the number one spot in the Nats system! Sadly, after the cancellation of the 2020 season, Rutledge struggled as injuries kept him to under 40 innings, with an ERA well over 5 between Rookie Ball, Fredricksburg, and Wilmington. Rutledge began to fade in the minds of Nats fans as Cade Cavalli twirled a dazzling season. Rutledge fell to #3 in the system. Coming into 2022, writers were even lower on him, putting him at #4.
Though Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry have been impressive, Cavalli has made the All-Star Future's Game. Rutledge's lack of recognition is saddening.
Now Rutledge's numbers on the year don't look terrific with an ERA of 5.85 as he recovers from injury. He has however been incredible recently. Rutledge has a 2.33 ERA in his last 5 outings, and the success looks sustainable with a ground ball rate north of 60%.
In fact, his 63% clip would place him at second in MLB, just shy of noted sinkerballer Framber Valdez. To be as tall as Rutledge is, and to accomplish that is incredible.
Now when I said he hasn't had a good year, that was a lie. See if all you look at is ERA (5.85), it looks bad but the peripherals are fantastic! Rutledge has a SIERA (An ERA estimator based on groundballs, flyballs+ line drives, Ks BBs, and HRs) of 4.42, and a FIP of 3.61! Rutledge has been unlucky all year, and this recent success is just him regressing to the mean. He's been good all year and I'm glad it's finally being recognized.