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Player Profile: RHP Jackson Rutledge
The Nationals 2019 first round pick RHP Jackson Rutledge made his MLB debut this year.
Editors Note: This is the second in my player profile series that I have started here at the Nats Report. Check out all of my player profiles: Dylan Crews
Position: Right-hand Pitcher
Current status: Major League Debut 2023
How acquired: selected by the Washington Nationals with the 17th overall pick draft 2019
2023 Grade: A
Quotable: “It was pretty much spot on to what I was expecting, to be honest… Beautiful stadium, a beautiful place to play.” - Jackson Rutledge on his Major League Debut in Pittsburg, September 13, 2023
2024 Opening Day Projection:
Minor League: 8-4 |3.71 ERA | 106 strikeouts | 119.0 innings pitched
Major League: 1-1 | 6.75 ERA | 12 strikeouts | 20.0 innings pitched
Jackson Rutledge made significant improvements during the 2023 season. The right-hander started the 2023 season with the Harrisburg Senators and during the summer made it up to triple-A and then towards the end of the regular season, got called up and made his professional debut on September 13, 2023.
In his 23 starts split between Harrisburg and the Triple-A–A Rochester Red Wings, Rutledge had an 8–4 record and 3.71 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 119.0 innings of work.
Rutledge faced the Pittsburgh Pirates in his major league debut that same day and took the loss in a rough outing. Rutledge only pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs (all earned) off 10 hits, one home run, one walk, and two strikeouts across 90 pitches (52 strikes) in the Nats’ 7-6 loss.
However, in his third professional start, Rutledge looked a lot better and was able to record his first career win against the Atlanta Braves on September 24. In this game, Rutledge pitched 6.1 innings giving up two runs on six hits, striking out four and only walking two.
As you can see in this spray chart, Rutledge threw a lot more four-seam fastballs up in the zone which could have contributed to his success on the mound.
In his last start for the 2023 season and the Nationals’ last game, Rutledge pitched 5.0 innings, gave up five runs on five hits, and struck out four.
Here are some interesting facts via Baseball Savant about the 346 pitches that he threw in the majors this year:
When throwing his 4-seam fastball, on average the ball moves 12 inches towards a right-handed batter and drops 16 inches. The league average horizontal movement is 7 inches and 15 inches drop.
When throwing his slider, on average the ball moves 1 inch away from a right-handed batter and drops 37 inches. League average horizontal movement is 6 inches and 36 inches drop.
Jackson threw 52.0% of his pitches in the major leagues in the zone, the league average was 49.9%, and lastly,
when facing Rutledge, batters swung at 169 pitches and missed 36 of them which is below league average.
All in all, 2023 can be considered a success for Jackson. He was able to move from double-A all the way to the Majors in a really short period of time. His performance in Triple-A was extremely impressive. I believe that the Nationals did handle Rutledge really well this season, and it was great to see him get some major league experience in low-leverage situations against the Atlanta Braves who won the NL East again.
It will be interesting to see where the Nationals place him to start the 2024 season. I guess it all comes down to his performance when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.
I personally would like to see Rutledge in the majors right at Opening Day for the Nationals, however, I believe that the Nationals might place him with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings and he could be the first to be called up once there is an injury to the pitching rotation. Either way, it is going to be an interesting ride.
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