As the Rockies prepare to try and sweep the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight, they are riding the hot streaks of two players who started the season in the minor leagues; they are riding the quick feet of Eric Young Jr. and the quick hands of Josh Rutledge.
There was never any question about E.Y. Jr.’s speed. Besides having a connection to the franchise’s rich history because of his father, Young always brought a unique but raw type of athleticism to the table. The decision to develop him resembled a football team deciding to draft an athlete who has no position. Once EY2 gets on base his ability to wreak havoc and affect the game is unquestioned. The big, looming questions have to do with the getting on base part, along with his defense.
Right now the Rockies are trying to figure out what they have been trying to figure out for a while: can he hit enough and become a polished enough player to stick around long term? Even with his recent contributions, one could argue that he still does not quite pass the “eye test” as a baseball player who can make sustainable contributions.
Josh Rutledge, on the other hand, is the first potential candidate to take over at second base who actually sparks any glimmer of hope. He looks like a keeper because of the way he is different from E.Y. Jr. That is to say, he just flat out looks like a baseball player. He plays big league defense, but its his swing that truly stands out. The way he handles inside pitches shows a more polished swing than so many prospects that have gone before him. He pulls his hands in and gets around on pitches, and he does so with power. If he can repeat that swing over the course of a Major League season it will potentially give the Rockies a potent combination in the middle of their infield.
In one sense, these two players are in similar situations. They are both trying to capitalize on the playing time that has fallen to them thanks to injuries and a woeful season. They are both trying to prove that they belong in the future plans of this franchise. But in another sense they are on much different paths. Eric Young Jr. needs to prove that he brings enough baseball skill in addition to his extraordinary work ethic and fitness to stick around. Josh Rutledge needs to prove that his early success is not a mirage and that he can be this kind of ballplayer for a long time. Both will try to do so with some combination of quick hands and quick feet.