Someone’s got to start at second base for the Angels, right? Despite a terrible track record, that someone looks like it will be Josh Rutledge. But does he deserve it?
What happened in 2014?
After losing his starting job at second base with the Rockies the year before, Josh Rutledge was relegated to bench duty for the Rockies. The terrible, no good, awful Rockies.
Of course, because they are the Rockies, Troy Tulowitzki got hurt and Rutledge was forced back into a starting role, taking over at shortstop for about half the season. The whole shortstop thing didn’t really work out so well as Rutledge struggled defensively, keeping with his career trend, but he at least bounced back somewhat with his bat, posting an 88 wRC+ after cratering to 48 wRC+ in 2013. That’s not good, especially given the environment, but it is progress.
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only “meh”)
What do the projections think he will do in 2015?
This is like a game of one upsmanship between the projection systems as they try and see who can come up with the worst projection. These are all just so awful. He’s going to strike out a ton and be an OBP blackhole and not have much power. But other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
I really don’t like Josh Rutledge. At all. He has major contact issues and they are only going to be exacerbated playing half his games close to sea level where breaking balls, you know, actually break. I want to believe that he can turn things around defensively as he did have a better projection with his glove as a prospect, but from what I’ve seen of him in the few Rockies games I’ve watched and in the small sample of spring games he’s played for the Halos, he just looks bad. There is athleticism there, but he’s stiff and awkward and just… bad.
THREE OPEN QUESTIONS FOR JOSH RUTLEDGE IN 2015
1) Just how bad is Rutledge defensively?
From a scouting perspective, Rutledge had solid reports on his glove coming up, from what I can find. However, the results in the majors have been horrendous. He’s posted big ugly negative numbers in both DRS and UZR. The catch is that he actually doesn’t have as much experience as you might think.
Rutledge has been in the bigs for three seasons, but only parts of three season. In that time he’s logged 669 innings at second base and 1,113.2 at shortstop. That isn’t nearly the kind of sample size you need at either position for the defensive metrics to be reliable. That being said, the reason Rutledge has never played more than 105 games in a season is because the Rockies got frustrated with his glove.
Rutledge probably isn’t a disaster in the field, but I don’t think we need another 1500 innings of sample size to realize he isn’t good. He probably isn’t even average. He has no business playing short for an extended period of time and at second he can probably only be counted on to make the routine plays and not much else.
2) Is there any hope for his bat?
Probably not. This gets said a lot, but that’s because there is truth in it but if Rutledge couldn’t hit in Coors Field, why would we think he’d suddenly start hitting when he leaves the greatest hitting environment on earth?
On his career, Rutledge “boasts” a .277 wOBA with a 23.9% strikeout rate away from Coors. That’s pretty miserable. I can’t even think of a way to sugarcoat it and I’m trying real hard to think of a way. The only glimmer of hope I can find is that Rutledge did show much better power in the minors, so perhaps he tap into that more… somehow… maybe… I dunno.
The only other straw to grasp at is that Rutledge spent almost no time in the minors. He had a full season at Advanced-A, then half a season of Double-A and he’s been in the majors ever since, with a few Triple-A cameos mixed in. Now, this may surprise you, but I don’t think terribly highly of the way the Rockies run their franchise. So it is quite possible that they screwed Rutledge up by rushing him. It might be too late to salvage him, but maybe Don Baylor can get his hands on him and unlock some of the things that the Rox never did because of how little development time they gave him. I really don’t think that can happen, but if there is a batting coach that can pull off a miracle like that, Don Baylor seems like he could be that guy.
3) Is he going to be the starter at second base?
Despite everything I just said about his bat and his glove, the magical eight-ball says, “It seems likely.” As it stands right now, none of the competitors for the second base job are running away with it. In fact, they mostly seem to be running away from it. Unless something changes drastically over the next few weeks, Rutledge will be given the job on Opening Day if only because he has the most experience and because Jerry Dipoto needs to at least try and justify trading Jairo Diaz for him.
But just because Rutledge has the job on Opening Day, it doesn’t mean he’ll keep it. In fact, he might not ever be the full-time starter. The competition might very well continue on into the regular season as Scioscia tries to find someone who can hit enough to stay in the lineup *and* be a capable defender. There’s a good chance no one person will ever emerge, but Rutledge will be given the best opportunity to emerge early on.