The vast majority of Colorado Rockies fans had probably never heard of Josh Rutledge before his first game on Friday, July 13, but they certainly knew who he was afterwards. After an unbelievable debut, Rutledge is settling in to the shortstop position where he will stay until injured starter Troy Tulowitzki returns from the DL. Rutledge, who was ranked the 10th-best Rockies prospect before the 2012 season, might be here in Denver to stay.
Rutledge, 23, was a third-round draft pick by the Rockies in 2010. A native of Alabama, Rutledge played for the Crimson Tide for three seasons before he was drafted. Typically either batting leadoff or second, Rutledge was an outstanding hitter for Alabama, hitting .360 over 67 games his last season. In a conference full of great players, Rutledge was named to the All-Sec first team as a shortstop in 2010.
After being drafted the Rockies sent Rutledge to the Northwest League to finish the 2010 season. While it was a largely forgettable 11 games there, the Rockies moved him up play in for Modesto in the California League, an advanced Class A league, for the entirety of 2011. Over 113 games Rutledge batted .348 with 9 home runs, 9 triples, 33 doubles, and 91 runs.
It was good enough to get him promoted up to Class AA Tulsa to start the 2012 season. He proved he could play there as well, batting .306 over 87 games with 27 doubles and 13 home runs. When the Colorado Rockies needed to find another middle infielder to promote, Rutledge was a top choice despite the fact that he hadn't yet played any Class AAA ball.
That choice paid off in a spectacular debut for the young rookie. He hit a double in his first at-bat, scoring Michael Cuddyer for the game's first run, and then followed it up with a hit, sacrifice fly, and a walk in his first major league game. In his second game on Saturday night, Rutledge scored after getting on base with a walk.
I expect Rutledge to be around for a long time. While he will play shortstop until Tulowitzki returns, his long-term position will be at second base. He's certainly more than capable as a fielder, but it will ultimately be his bat that will make him a valuable addition to the Rockies. I think his hustle will be an excellent addition to the Rockies, and if he adjusts well to major league pitching, I think he could be the dynamic leadoff hitter that the Rockies have been looking for the past few years.
While this certainly opens the door for the Rockies to trade away current second baseman Marco Scutaro, Rutledge is bound to have his ups and downs. The Rockies were smart in bringing him up at this time to give him a chance to adjust before the Rockies make a serious push in 2013. The fans will love to cheer for a player who hustles like Rutledge, and he will certainly become a fan favorite for the next few months.
Julie has followed baseball her entire life, attending spring training in Florida with her family as a youngster. Upon moving to Denver in 2001 she became a devout Colorado Rockies fan.