Are we going to do this again?
Last year, Josh Rutledge‘s ascension from promising prospect to fixture in the Rockies’ future plans was astonishing. He had that beautiful compact swing, he could seemingly turn on any fastball, he showed some pop, he was fast enough on the bases,and even as a mediocre defender, we presumed that the shortstop-turned-second-baseman would be fine.
Sure, there was a “competition” in spring training this season, but we all knew Rutledge was the guy. He was penciled in as the second baseman of the future, and many of us probably had that written in ink.
2013 arrived, and we were smacked with a reality check. We probably needed somebody objective and reasonable to scream “SMALL SAMPLE SIZE” and dump some ice water on us well before the year started. Instead we just sat, watched, and cringed as he continued to bat second in the lineup and his numbers continued to plummet.
He earned an extended trip to the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, and rightfully so. While he was gone DJ LeMahieu surged and likely earned a leg up in the second base competition moving forward. LeMahieu’s defense is excellent and his batting average has hovered pretty consistently in the .270-.290 range. That outdoes what most teams in all of baseball get from the elusive second base spot. The Rockies seem to be excited about DJ, and they should be.
So if we are asking the question of Rutledge, “are we going to do this again?” the answer is probably no because of LeMahieu. We don’t have to try and decide if Rutledge is a future starter for this team. But we do have to decide is if he can become a weapon on a Rockies bench that really, seriously needs some help. Let’s not forget that Rutledge is still only 24 years old, so it’s not as if the team should give up on him. He can still be quite valuable.
It’s not just the fact that Rutledge has thumped the ball in three September games (3-for-7, a home run and 2 RBI). It’s how good his approach has looked at the plate and, not to be overlooked, his impact on the bases (a stolen base and at least one other extra base taken thanks to a good read).
So here I am again, getting my hopes up about Rutledge but in a different context. Can Rutledge become a weapon off the bench as a utility infielder? Can he be the guy who finally forces the Rockies to make a touch decision about Jonathan Herrera?
Time will tell, but we can add it to the list of things to watch between now and the end of the season.