A lot of attention on the Nationals’ farm system is rightfully given to Brady House, Cade Cavalli and Cole Henry. They are the organization’s top three prospects, per MLBPipeline.com.
Unfortunately, House (No. 1) is on the seven-day injured list at low Single-A Fredericksburg with back soreness. The 19-year-old shortstop hasn’t played in a game since June 11. Henry (No. 3) is also on the minor league injured list with shoulder soreness. Since his promotion from Double-A Harrisburg, the 22-year-old right-hander has allowed four runs with six strikeouts in four innings over his first two starts with Triple-A Rochester.
Meanwhile, Cavalli (No. 2) will make his first start at Rochester tonight after a scheduled midseason break. The 23-year-old right-hander has pitched really well as of late, posting a 2.17 ERA with 29 strikeouts and just 11 walks over his last five starts.
But some may have forgotten about Jackson Rutledge, a 2019 first-round pick out of San Jacinto Junior College and former No. 1 prospect in the Nats system.
Rutledge’s young career has been marred by injuries, limiting him to just 10 starts in his first professional season in 2019 and then only 13 in 2021. (He spent the 2020 season at the Nats’ alternate training site in Fredericksburg.)
Those injuries have stunted the right-hander’s development and dropped him in prospect rankings (MLBPipeline.com now ranks him No. 4 on the Nats farm). He only made four starts at high Single-A Wilmington last year, the highest level he’s reached so far in his career, and gave up 16 runs (15 earned) in just 10 ⅔ innings.
Some soreness in spring training set him back again to begin this season as he landed on the injured list in April and didn’t make his first start until May 5. It was a slow build for him while completing only 13 innings over his first five starts. But as we approach July, Rutledge is starting to ramp up.
The 6-foot-8, 243-pound prospect tossed one of the best outings of his professional career last night for the FredNats, pitching a career-high seven shutout innings of three-hit ball with eight strikeouts and only one walk against Delmarva (Orioles). He retired the final 11 batters he faced in a row to close out his night.
It was another impressive start during a stretch in which Rutledge has completed three scoreless outings in his last four starts. He shut out Lynchburg (Guardians) over six innings on June 10 and held Myrtle Beach (Cubs) scoreless over four innings of one-hit ball on June 16.
Just as impressive, this career performance against Delmarva came as he bounced back from a rough outing last week in which gave up five runs and eight hits in four innings against Salem (Red Sox).
Rutledge had a 13.15 ERA after his fifth start on June 4. He has cut that by more than half since then with his three scoreless starts. On the season at Fredericksburg, he is 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA, 1.559 WHIP, 8.2 K/9 rate and 2.82 K/BB rate. Despite his two duds, he has a 3.91 ERA and 1.174 WHIP in June.
If he keeps this up as the minor league season gets ready for its second half, Rutledge could find himself back at Wilmington – or even make his Harrisburg debut – later this summer.
* Staying in Fredericksburg, some position player prospects had big games at the plate in last night’s 8-0 win over Delmarva. Sammy Infante (No. 20) hit two home runs, while T.J. White (No. 26) and Jeremy De La Rosa (No. 13) also went yard.
Infante, a 2020 second-round compensatory pick out of Monsignor Edward Pace High School (FL), hit his first homer leading off the sixth inning and then crushed a three-run shot in the seventh. He now leads the Carolina League with 15 home runs and leads the FredNats with 46 RBIs and a .551 slugging percentage. The third baseman is also second on the team with an .818 OPS.
De La Rosa, a 2018 international signee out of the Dominican Republic, hit only his eighth homer of the season. But the 20-year-old outfielder leads the FredNats with a .318 batting average, .398 on-base percentage, .881 OPS and 24 stolen bases to go along with his second-best 45 RBIs.
White, a 2021 fifth-round pick out of Paul M. Dorman High School (S.C.), hit his seventh homer of the season in the same inning as Infante’s first. The outfielder is hitting .259 with 19 RBIs and an .810 OPS in 46 games.