The second notable Old Dominion graduate to join the Rays, (Ryan Yarbrough is the other), this sure-handed SS is set to increase the middle-infield competition and talent level in 2018 and beyond.
No.37, RHP Zachary Robert Rutherford, 21 yrs old
Born: March 13th, 1996 in Chesapeake, VA
Height/Weight: 6’2” 180 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R
Twitter handle: @thereal_zruth
Twitter profile statement: “Christ Follower. Current Player In the Tampa Bay Rays Organization. Former ODU Baseball Player. Romans 10:9” (Romans 10:9 states “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”)
Baseball America Rankings
- Ranked 15th best SS prior to the 2017 draft, 7 spots ahead of fellow Rays draftee Taylor Walls, and 99th overall, Rays picked him up 169th overall
DRB Writers ranking
- High: 26th
- Low: 54th
Zach Rutherford: Abilities
- Excellent fielder, but with awkward motions that gets knocks from scouts
- Good on-base abilities and patience at the plate
- Average runner
- Gap power
- Abilities notes: Rutherford surprised many with his power in 2017, but others had anticipated it would eventually get there - just not this quickly. If he can build on that and maintain his effectiveness at SS, he could have some helium as a prospect.
Joined the Rays by way of....
- Joined by way of the MLB draft, and the process kept him up a while,
“I woke up really early and couldn’t fall back asleep, “ Rutherford told News 3. “I was a little anxious, but excited to see how the day played out. And when my name was finally called, it was just a big sigh of relief. I’m very excited that I’ll get to play professional baseball - it’s something I’ve always dreamed of.”
Latest Transaction: assigned to Princeton Rays June 21, 2017
Note - There’s good reason to expect Rutherford to get pushed, possibly to begin 2018 in Charlotte, if the Rays trust his defensive abilities. He will be competing with Luis Rengifo, Taylor Walls, and Vidal Brujan to make up the middle-infield in Bowling Green and/or Charlotte.
Facts, Honors, and Awards
- Prior to the draft and with 235 AB, Rutherford hit .332/.397/.472 (21 BB and 39 SO) for Old Dominion with an ISO that increased to .140 (up from .098 in 2016).
- Selected as the Amateur Player of the Year by the Mid Atlantic Baseball Scouts Association
- Was a finalist (made the final 5) for the Brooks Wallace Award (given to the nation’s top shortstop), Logan Warmoth (of the Jays) wound up winning the award, and previous winners include Alex Bregman, Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson.
- Took home the Defensive Player of the Year award in the 2017 CONFERENCE USA BASEBALL AWARDS.
- Rutherford’s abilities on the field for 2017 were noted as follows,
One of the nation’s most sure-handed shortstops, Rutherford also excelled in the field. The C-USA Defensive Player of the Year led the conference with 196 assists, 28 more than any other player in the league, while committing just five errors. Rutherford’s .982 fielding percentage is a new single-season school record for shortstops.
- A big fan of Duke’s Basketball team, and quite honest about how they perform!
DUKE BABY! Play like crap most of the game and find a way to win! Gotta love it! #LetsGoDuke— Zach Rutherford (@thereal_zruth) November 25, 2017
Zach Rutherford 2017
|SB (CS)||4 (0)|
Stats Notes: Rutherford showed well vs both LHP .293/.348/.451 and RHP .250/.321/.441.
Interesting Comparison: Didi Gregorius
- It was a challenge to find the right fit in this comparison, to be honest, but Gregorius seems to have a lot of the same outcomes at the level and matches Rutherford in size, even if Gregorius has added more weight as he’s matured.
- Just as with Rutherford, Gregorius doesn’t have plus speed on the bases and lacks above-average power to this point, but projects to have more as he gains strength. Both had wRC+ just over 100 at the rk level (101 for Gregorius and 107 for Rutherford) with similar wOBA (.346 for Gregorius and .349 for Rutherford).
- Rutherford, just as with Gregorius, is likely to get a look at some point at either or both 2B and 3B, and seemingly has the skills to handle either.
- Of course, Gregorius played the level at 19 yrs old while Rutherford played it at 21 yrs old, but that also helps account for Rutherford’s better ISO (.179 to .074). Rutherford would have to surprise many to reach Gregorius’ levels going forward, but it’s still an interesting comparison.
Notes for 2018 and beyond
There’s a lot to like about Zach Rutherford, and it all begins with one thing you notice when researching him and watch him play: he doesn’t have a major weakness and does everything well. Now, to some that will seem very boring and leave you wanting for more, but for most it’s a reassuring aspect of his profile that provides for a high floor in terms of outcomes.
In truth, most likely Rutherford was still available for the Rays in the sixth round because of what some scouts deemed his “unorthodox” throwing motion and swing at the plate. He’s proved them wrong thus far, even showing more power early on than anticipated, and in doing so has put himself on some radars as one to watch in 2018. And as a long-time Vladimir Guerrero fan, I can tell you that sometimes unorthodox is a very good thing.
The Rays have so many infield options in the lower part of the minors that it’s hard to tell exactly where Rutherford will begin the season. As a solid college selection, however, you can expect him to challenge for a role on the Bowling Green team where he may get exposed to various positions in an effort to increase his versatility.
Being able to man several positions within the infield would help increase his chances of making it onto an MLB roster. That’s not to say that Rutherford doesn’t have the skills to be a full-time player, as he’s talented enough to do so.
Rutherford will be aiming to take his game up a notch this season. The opportunity to play a full professional season will allow him to convince us that the 2017 power numbers were not just an unsustainable flash in the pan but a new tool in his arsenal.