Born in Morristown, NJ on May 2, 1997, Blake Rutherford and his family moved to Simi Valley, California when he was very young. He went on to Chaminade College Prep school in West Hills, California. He is the younger brother of Cole Rutherford, a senior at Cornell University of the Ivy League.
At Chaminade, he hit .577/.676/.923 in his senior year, including 18 extra base hits and 17 steals in the 27 games that he played. He earned the honor of playing for the USA National U-18 Team for two seasons, winning gold in Japan in 2015.
Rutherford signed a letter of commitment to play centerfield at UCLA. He was considered a top ten talent prior to the 2016 June amateur draft, but concerns regarding his willingness to sign caused him to drop to the 18th pick where the New York Yankees selected him. They were able to sign him to an above-slot $3.282 Million.
The Yankees assigned Rutherford to the Gulf Coast League where he played in only eight games prior to the Yankees promoting him to their rookie level affiliate in Pulaski, Virginia. At Pulaski, he was 1.5 years younger than the average player.
Combined he hit an astonishing.351/.415/.570 with 15 extra base hits, 16 runs scored, 12 RBIs, and 13 walks in 33 games. A hamstring injury cut his season short in late August. Although it was healed in time to return to action, the organization decided to shut him down for the year, as he had already proven what he could do.
Rutherford stands at 6’3 and weighs 195 pounds. He is a four-tool player, with only his arm considered below average.
On defense, he is athletic and gets great jumps on the ball, allowing him to cover a lot of ground. Long term, he may add mass to his frame, which could ultimately lead him to left field, but for now, he is very capable in center.
On the offensive side, he is a special talent that needs to continue to refine the raw tools. He has a keen eye for the strike zone. His smooth stroke allows him to completely cover the plate and consistently produce hard contact.
Pinstriped Prospects has Rutherford ranked as the Yankees’ number three prospect in their list of top 50.
Throughout the industry, Rutherford has already proven himself a top rated prospects. MLB Pipeline (37), ESPN (22), Baseball America (45), Baseball Prospectus (49), and Minor League Ball (39) all have him in their top 50.
Rutherford should begin the season with the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League. However, if he hits the way he did last year, look for him to quickly find himself roaming center in Tampa.
It is also possible that he jumps to Trenton before the season is through. There is belief that he will be on top of the Yankees’ prospect list by the end of this year and pushing his way through the logjam of Yankees outfield talent that is currently in place.
Long term, he has the potential to be a perennial all-star for the Yankees. As long as he can stay healthy and continue his approach of watching others and learning from them he should mature quickly.