When is 277 at-bats enough to determine the value of a player? If you have followed my work for any appreciable amount of time you will know that I’m a big fan of sample sizes. By that I mean we need to have enough data at our fingertips to be able to adequately assess a player’s outlook. For me, 277 at-bats, a half season of work, isn’t nearly enough to paint a fully developed picture of what is going on with a player. For others though it seems like 277 at-bats is plenty. Take the Curious Case of Josh Rutledge…
A third round selection in the 2010 MLB Entry Draft, Rutledge played his college ball at the University of Alabama. He appeared in 11 games at Low-A ball in 2010, then 113 at High-A in 2011 before appearing in 87 games at Double-A before he received his call up last season due to the injury to Troy Tulowitzki. That means Rutledge has 211 games and 855 at-bats of minor league experience on his resume, and just 87 games worth above A-ball. Normally I would be telling people they are crazy if they think that’s enough work for a guy in the minor leagues cause it ain’t much. In those less than 950 plate appearances Rutledge hit .320 with a .374 OBP and .496 SLG. Those numbers play in any league of course. He also had 22 homers, 110 RBIs, 154 runs scored and 31 steals. To say he was a dynamic performer is an understatement. Remember though, only 356 at-bats above A-Ball.
When he was called up last year by the Rockies Rutledge hit .274 with a .306 OBP and .469 SLG. The fact that his numbers regressed from the minor leagues is totally normal. While the SLG was impressive for a middle infielder, there are some concerns with the other two numbers. Admitting that 277 at-bats is nowhere near enough to make a definitive call on anyone, I’m going to be even more obnoxious and shrink things down even further by looking at his season by month.
July: .381/.394/683 (63 ABs)
August: .317/.333/.598 (82 ABs)
September: .209/.266/.304 (115 ABs)
October: .118/.118/.176 (17 ABs)
I know the same size is extremely small but each month his AVG, OBP and SLG went down.
There is also this; Rutledge hit .247 with a .279 OBP in 81 at-bats against lefties.
Rutledge only took nine walks in 291 plate appearances. Nine. That’s atrocious. He also struck out 54 times leaving him with a simply pathetic 0.17 BB/K mark, well under 60 percent off the big league average. Ugh is right.
Though he went deep eight time in those 277 at-bats, Rutledge hit a total of one home run over his last 37 games. He also had a 31 percent fly ball rate, some four percent below the big league average, and that doesn’t exactly paint him as a big time home run threat despite the suggestion that his hot start last year has put into folks minds.
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Rutledge has one season of experience above Single-A ball.
His performance at the big league level tailed off dramatically as the season wore on.
He’s not likely to be a 20 homer threat even with a full season of at-bats.
It’s unclear if he can improve upon his .274 batting average from last season given his terrible plate discipline and struggles versus lefties.
Now you know the negative. Now a few big positives.
(1) He will play half his games in Coors Field.
(2) He will enter the year qualified at shortstop after appearing in 57 games there last season. With Tulowitzki back Rutledge will be the Rockies’ second baseman giving him strong positional flexibility.
(3) Though he may not be a 20 homer threat, 15 big flies seems doable. Also, he possesses speed. Josh was 7-for-7 last year in steal attempts with the Rockies, and he swiped 14 bases in Double-A before he was called up. The end result being that Rutledge has a shot at a 15/15 season from either the shortstop or second base position in fantasy.
It seems to me that there are more concerns than outright pluses here, but I appear to be in the minority. I’m a fan of Rutledge, don’t get me wrong, but I think his current ADP of 10th at the shortstop position is totally bonkers. People love youngster and the possibility they bring, but I just can’t understand why anyone would take Rutledge ahead of a guy like Alexei Ramirez who has been a solid big league hitter for five years (their ADP has them being take about 35 spots apart). Maybe Rutledge lives up to expectations this year and has that 15/15 season with a ton of runs scored with the Rockies, but I’d prefer a guy with 2,800 big league at-bats like Ramirez over a guy who doesn’t even have 280 at the big league level, especially when that youngster failed miserably for half the time he was in the big leagues (don’t forget that over his final 32 games last season that Rutledge hit .197 with one home run, 10 RBIs and two steals). It’s amazing to me, always has been, at how people are so willing to take a shot on something new and flashy while totally discounting something that is a bit worn in.
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By Ray Flowers