Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Nats 2019 Draft: Reaction to Day 1/1st round pick Jackson Rutledge


Nats throw everyone a curveball with Rutledge pick. photo via

Nats throw everyone a curveball with Rutledge pick. photo via

Well, nobody saw this coming.

After reviewing dozens of mock drafts, most of which (in the last couple of weeks or so) had the Nats clearly focusing on Florida prep RHP Matthew Allan as their pick … ended up selecting a guy that not one Mock draft I read had the Nats picking.  The Nats with the 17th pick take Jackson Rutledge, a huge RHP from San Jacinto College in Texas, having transferred out of Arkansas after one season in 2018.

So, how did Rutledge get to the Nats?  And, how did the Nats take him over their presumed pick?

I went back and looked at all the later mock drafts; Most had Rutledge going in the 11-14 range.  Toronto and Philadelphia both were presumed to be taking college arms, and Rutledge was a common name falling to them.  MLBPipeline had him going 9th to the Braves.  So what happened?

  • the Braves took Shea Langeliers at #9 probably earlier than many thought.
  • Toronto at 11 indeed took a college arm; they grabbed WVA starter Alex Manoah.
  • Then, at 14 Philadelphia found possible top 10 guy Bryson Stott available and grabbed him.

So that left Rutledge available at 17 for the Nats.  Who did they pass up on at this point?  In the picks right after, we saw guys that the Nats had been associated with go in fast order: Quinn Priester (prep RHP), Zack Thompson  (lefty college starter from U-Kentucky), and George Kirby (RHP from Elon).

Matthew Allan went unsigned, despite being (by far) the BPA on MLBpipeline’s draft boards (he was ranked #13).  In fact, on the broadcast for the draft I noticed that once the draft reached the back part of the 1st round … they summarily removed Allan from the top of the BPA list, presumably because they realized that if he didn’t go in the upper part of the 1st round, then it was almost guaranteed that he was going to go to college and not get his $4M bonus demand.

As for Rutledge, he was very highly ranked pre-draft: 15th by Keith Law, 12th by MLB, 14th by Baseball America, 13th by 20/80, 21st by Fangraphs.

So, what do we have?  We have a massive guy: 6’8″ 250.  He throws over the top, is up to 98-99 on the fastball with a mid 80s cutter, a wipe out slider, a 12-6 curve and some deception due to what’s described as “unusual short arm” mechanics.  I’m hoping we’re getting something closer to Randy Johnson and not a rehashing of Jake Johansen.

Quick Verdict: I think, (like a lot of Nats fans), that i’m happy the team with with a college arm and not another prep guy.  It does seem like they got decent value; they got a guy at 17 who most pundits thought was ranked higher in this class and was going higher.  I like Rutledge more than Kirby and Thompson (the two next best college guys) for various reasons (health and pedigree mostly).  So I’m happy with this pick.

33 Responses to 'Nats 2019 Draft: Reaction to Day 1/1st round pick Jackson Rutledge'

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  1. I’ll move forward my comment from the last post and add a couple of things. Todd, I do agree with you that if they were going to draft a pitcher, that Rutledge was widely rated higher than Thompson or Kirby. Rutledge does have a commitment in play, though, to the U. of KY, so he does have some leverage.

    What I said earlier:

    Hey hey, we drafted the next Alex Meyer! Maybe we can flip him for the next Denard Span . . .

    On a theoretical basis, Rutledge is a good “value” pick, as most boards had him projected higher, and he’s supposed to be one of the top three or four arms in the draft, albeit a draft said to be weak on pitching. But-but-but the Nats’ need is more hitting than pitching, and they passed on a lot of good hitters.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the division went for hitters. The Braves got the catcher the Nats were said to be targeting and also two good-hitting infielders. The Phils had possibly the top college INF fall to them. The Marlins got maybe the top two college OFs in the draft. The Mets overdrafted a HS 3B, but at least they went for a hitter. In short, three of the four divisional rivals got hitters who could be in their lineups within three years. The Nats got no lineup help whatsoever.

    The Dodgers got two of the biggest mashers in the draft in Hoese and Busch.

    What are the Nats doing? The sweet spot in this draft was college hitters, which most of the other top teams seemed to realize. Plus they took a JUCO with a 4-year commit who’ll have to be bought out, at least a slot or a little more. The Nats don’t pick again until #94, the 16th pick today. Top college hitters still on the board are Drew Mendoza, Will Holland, Will Robertson, and Kyle McCann.

    Oh well, at least they avoided the Matthew Allan trap . . . like every other team. There was a serious smoke job there. If he’s a Boras client, Boras blew it again.


    4 Jun 19 at 10:55 am

  2. What good hitters did they pass on?

    College hitters picked immediately after Rutledge: Shewmake and Jones (college SS), Toglia (1B from UCLA), Hoese from Tulane … now you’re 10 picks past Rutledge and into another “tier” of 1st rounders. I don’t see any names there that id’ have picked over Rutledge.

    As I said in the post, it looked like to me the bats they would have loved (Langeliers, Stott, Baty) all got snapped up “early.” I think they stuck to their board and took the BPA at that point.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 19 at 11:01 am

  3. A lot depends on the Nats’ philosophy and their “big board.” Were they bound and determined to take a pitcher, or did they have a BPA board with both pitchers and hitters and Rutledge just happened to be the name at the top?

    It’s not just me saying that at some point, the Nats HAVE to invest top picks in hitters. The only top domestic hitting prospect they have now is a 1st round pick: Kieboom. Their last two 1st round hitters are Kieboom and . . . all the way back to 2011 to Rendon. So in the last eight years, they’ve only invested ONE 1st round pick in a field player. And the guy they picked in 2011 is about to be a free agent. He and their 2005 1st round pick are the only domestic homegrown field starters.

    Most BPA boards at the time the Nats picked would agree with you: Rutledge, Thompson, and Kirby were rated slightly ahead of the next tier of hitters. But if you need hitters, you need hitters. And EVERY OTHER team in the division took hitters, as did the dominant team in the NL right now, the Dodgers.

    Specific to who would I have picked, I think Jones and Toglia are reaches, particularly with Davidson (vice Jones) and Hoese and Busch (vice Toglia) still on the board. I would have been pleased with any among Shewmake, Davidson, or Hoese. I do think there’s some risk with Hoese since he’s only done it for one season, and that’s been in a mid-level conference. But if he’s hitting 40 HRs a year for the Dodgers by 2025, 24 other teams are going to be kicking themselves. Plus the Dodgers covered themselves with another power hitter (Busch) with their next pick.


    4 Jun 19 at 1:08 pm

  4. If the Nats take hitters today (Tuesday), they’re down to what they’ve done before with Wiseman (3d) and Banks (4th) — trying to catch a falling college star with some fundamental flaw in his game (Mendoza) and/or a disappointing junior season (Holland). McCann and his 22 HRs are intriguing, whether he can stick as a catcher or not, but he also has 25% K rate.


    4 Jun 19 at 1:28 pm

  5. Klaw’s thoughts on the pick: The Nationals had to be thrilled when Jackson Rutledge slid to their No. 17 pick after everyone thought he would go somewhere in the 9-to-11 range. (But it did ruin my streak of predicting their picks accurately.) I had one front-office source with another team say Rutledge had the best fastball/slider combo in the class. That was Washington’s only pick on Day 1.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 19 at 1:29 pm

  6. Player development theories: clearly Rizzo likes drafting arms, then using them as currency to acquire what he needs. Hitters: Rizzo has had some success delivering MLB-quality hitters via the draft in the past few years: going backwards Neuse is in AAA, Daniel Johnson is also in AAA, Kieboom debuted, Stevenson debuted, Schrock in AAA, Wiseman hitting well and pushing or a promotion. However it is fair to say Rizzo completely wiffed on hitters in 2014, 2013 and 2012. But you also have to give them credit for Soto, Robles, Garcia, Antuna, Pineda, etc, as success stories.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 19 at 1:36 pm

  7. Mathew Allan goes 3rd round, 89th overall to NY Mets. Slot value just $667k. Weird pick. They don’t seem like they’ll get enouggh savings off of their 1strounder (also a prep kid in Baty) or their 2nd rounder ($1.37M slot value for yet another prep kid) to come wnywhere close to Allan’s price tag.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 19 at 1:45 pm

  8. Hey hey, I was on the mark with Mendoza! He’s not much defensively at 3B, so he’s basically Drew Ward.

    Neuse, Johnson, Stevenson, and Schrock aren’t going to be MLB regulars, though. That’s my point: it’s VERY hard to find regulars beyond the first round or two.


    4 Jun 19 at 2:23 pm

  9. 3rd round: Drew Mendoza, 3b, FLA St – rated 52 by FG, ‘Mendoza has huge raw power, a pretty swing, and a shot to stick at third base, but he’s regressed since his prep days, losing athleticism, striking out more often, and looking disinterested on the field.’

    4th round: Matt Cronin, LHP, Ark – rated 99 by FG, ‘Lefty has high slot, runs his heater up to 97 mph and likely fits in relief, but command and offspeed vary.’


    4 Jun 19 at 2:28 pm

  10. Very nice “value” pick of Cronin in the 4th round. Profiles a lot like Tim Cate, but bigger.


    4 Jun 19 at 2:30 pm

  11. KW

    4 Jun 19 at 2:31 pm

  12. KW

    4 Jun 19 at 2:33 pm

  13. Will Holland and Kyle McCann are still on the board.


    4 Jun 19 at 2:34 pm

  14. Todd: completely agree that Allan pick in 3d round was weird, if not outright wasted, following two other high schoolers. The Nats did get Luzardo to sign out of the 3d round, but only because he was coming off TJ.


    4 Jun 19 at 2:37 pm

  15. Not sure what the Mets are doing with all the high school picks in general, none of whom will help an aging roster anytime soon. Then in the 4th round, they overdrafted Mangum, I guess hoping he’ll sign under slot.


    4 Jun 19 at 2:39 pm

  16. McCann is gone. I’d like Drew Millas or Jack Kenley, and maybe Carter Bins


    4 Jun 19 at 2:48 pm

  17. Of course we don’t have a 5th round pick . . .


    3B Drew Mendoza, Florida State: A lefty hitter with huge power and some swing-and-miss in his game, Mendoza has a risky offensive profile and not quiet enough defensive value to make up for it. Whichever team takes him on Tuesday will be betting on their player development staff’s ability to help Mendoza make more consistent contact and/or improve his defense at third base.

    LHP Matt Cronin, Arkansas: Thanks to a low-90s heater and a hammer curveball, Cronin should be among the first 2019 draftees to reach the big leagues. He’s a career reliever with strong spin rates, a herky jerky delivery, and a bulldog mentality. An analytics savvy club figures to take Cronin early Tuesday and immediately begin grooming him for a potential big league debut as soon as early next year.


    4 Jun 19 at 2:56 pm

  18. Are you sure? according to we do have a 5th


    4 Jun 19 at 3:06 pm

  19. MLB saying we took Tyler Dyson, RHP Florida – FG’ Dyson has been all over the place, looking like a top-5 overall pick at this time last year, pitching with fringy stuff on the Cape, then rebounding in some fall outing to show 1st round ability once again. His stuff is now back down again early in the spring, but the potential is here to rebound as the draft approaches.’


    4 Jun 19 at 3:10 pm

  20. OK, maybe we do. I thought we lost 2d and 5th.


    4 Jun 19 at 3:11 pm

  21. And the Nats get Tyler Dyson, a pitcher they had been connected to in an early mock I saw. So once again, three pitchers in their top five picks, plus a high-upside-but-falling college hitter very much in the Wiseman/Banks vein.


    4 Jun 19 at 3:15 pm

  22. I think it became 2nd and the comp pick for Harper, once he signed


    4 Jun 19 at 3:16 pm

  23. With all this talk of line up needs, isn’t it worth noting that, if they re-up Rendon, they will have 5/8ths of their lineup locked up for the forseeable future (ie 4 years) with quality, young guys in Robles, Soto, rendon, turner and Kieboom who will be in, or just reaching, their prime? And on top of that, most of the open positions (1b, corner OF) are relatively cheap on the open market.

    I agree the depth in the farm looks weak, but honestly, the whole system looks weak with Robles gone. So while it is always good to develop options and depth, that seems a much better position to be at the MLB level than the next 4 years of pitching members locked up.

    Just saying


    4 Jun 19 at 3:25 pm

  24. Dyson was a key contributor as a reliever in the Gators’ 2017 championship run, struggled some and was injured in 2018, and had more injuries and struggles in 2019. He didn’t pitch between April 20 and June 2 this year. The Gators did bring him in for a key inning in their elimination game, though.

    Dyson stats:


    4 Jun 19 at 3:31 pm

  25. Mets appear to be going all Senior signs to get enough money to sign Matt Allan. Seems like they must have found out what it will take.


    4 Jun 19 at 4:02 pm

  26. Lots of interesting DC/MD/VA guys have gotten selected already; i’ll have a separate post after the draft highlighting local guys… fyi.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jun 19 at 4:32 pm

  27. I only know what I read about these things, but the Nats draft seems ….surprisingly ok?


    4 Jun 19 at 4:35 pm

  28. If the Mets can get Allen signed, good for them. That’s a great 3rd rounder


    4 Jun 19 at 4:56 pm

  29. Wow, look at this:

    My, how the fates of draft fortune change in one year. This is a mock from last June. It has Dyson as the 1/4 pick and Mendoza as the 1/5.


    4 Jun 19 at 6:52 pm

  30. Carlos Collazo – Baseball America – May 22nd: “Mendoza has above-average raw power, but it’s strength over bat speed and scouts question how much he’ll be able to reach his power against professional pitching. He has a solid eye at the plate and doesn’t chase out of the zone often, but he swings and misses enough at pitches in the zone for scouts to question his overall hitting ability.”


    4 Jun 19 at 6:56 pm

  31. Wally — Here’s my quick take on the Nats’ draft. I think it will be graded well, possibly very well, by the pundits because they got perceived value with their top three picks, by as much as a round with Mendoza and Cronin, and got sort of a fallen star in Dyson in the 5th.

    As I’ve stated above, my only real “problem” is with the philosophy. The Nats in recent years have found several pitchers in rounds beyond the 1st who have developed well. They’ve not done nearly as well with hitters not taken in the 1st. At some point, you have to draft for need. I would rather that they had taken someone like Hoese or Davidson in the 1st, then a pitcher in the 3d. Five of the next nine picks after Mendoza were college pitchers, so the Nats would have had their choice of a number of pitchers who were valued by the better teams picking behind them. Or they could have still taken Mendoza (although probably not if they had already taken Hoese).

    I think Mendoza has as much chance/potential to develop into an MLB hitter as anyone they could have hoped to have gotten in the 3d round. But I’ve been burned by getting excited by the “value” of the Wiseman and Banks picks to the point that, well, I’ll just have to be pleasantly surprised if Mendoza turns out to be significantly better than them.


    4 Jun 19 at 7:22 pm

  32. I think that’s a reasonable take on the draft. I still disagree on drafting for need, but think you’re right about how it will be perceived.

    But even that ought to be taken with a grain of salt; they had few picks and little money, so I doubt it’s get graded as anything more than ‘we really weren’t expecting much but they got a few decent guys’. I can’t imagine there is a star in here, although there is hope for Rutledge, but maybe a few guys play well through AA and create some value through trades. But the best part was that there was only 1 senior sign, if I’m reading it correctly. I’ve never liked when they punt on half of their top 10 picks to pay just one or two guys.


    4 Jun 19 at 10:00 pm

  33. […] Round/#17 overall: Jackson Rutledge, RHP from Texas Juco.  See stand-alone post on Rutledge for more.  Pre-draft Ranks: #15th by Keith Law, 12th by MLB, 14th by Baseball America, 13th by 20/80, 21st […]

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