Projecting Josh Rutledge

Josh Rutledge has been filling in at shortstop for the injured Troy Tulowitzki and has done quite an admirable job, having posted an impressive .445 wOBA over 84 plate appearances. Unfortunately, we have no projections from any sources for the rookie and fantasy owners are left wondering what to expect from him for the rest of the season. Fear not loyal RotoGraphs reader, the Pod Projections have returned to answer that very question.

I have decided to project him assuming a full season to give you an idea of what he would do on a pro-rated basis. His current statistics are not factored into the final projected stat line. They are only used to help formulate the projected underlying metrics themselves.

At-Bats: 600. A top of the order hitter playing full-time typically accumulates this many at-bats, so we’ll go with it.

Contact Rate: 80%. At High-A in 2011, Rutledge made contact at an 80%, and then improved upon that ever so slightly to 81% while at Double-A this season. As a reminder, Rutledge has yet to see a plate appearance at the Triple-A level. His 2011 home park reduces strikeouts for right-handed batters by 5% as did his 2012 park. Coors Field reduces strikeouts to righties by 11%. His current Major League mark sits at 84%. Given his minor league strikeout rates teetering around 80% and his lack of Triple-A experience, offset somewhat by the better ballpark, I landed on an 80% projection.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 46%/21%/33%. He had generally posted ground ball rates in the mid-40% range in the minors and is doing exactly that so far in the Majors. Coors Field drastically inflates line drives, so he could very well maintain a 22% rate or close to it.

BABIP: .320. My expected BABIP formulas spit out .332 and .340 marks and he has posted exceptional BABIPs in the minors and he has so far in the Majors. We know that Coors significantly inflates hits, so a .349 BABIP for the season like what he has currently enjoyed is not out of the question. However, a more likely scenario is for a .335 mark, which splits the difference between the two formulas.

HR/FB Ratio: 12%. My rough estimate is that Rutledge posted a HR/FB ratio of around 14% this year in Double-A and 8% in High-A last year. His 2012 home park inflated homers by 19%, but his 2011 park suppressed them by 58% (is this for real?! this sounds like an error). Coors Field increases right-handed homers by 16%, so nearly as much as his minor league home park this year. Clearly, Rutledge won’t keep up his current 27% mark. I think 12% is reasonable

RBI and Runs: 70 and 90. If I expected his OBP to be better and he learned to be more patient, his runs scored projection may have topped the century mark. Hitting behind a strong OBP in Dexter Fowler will help his RBI total though.

SBs: 14. He has attempted and succeeded on three attempts, which pro-rates to 22 attempts on the year. He stole 14 in 18 tries at Double-A and 16 in 19 tries at High-A, so he seems to be a pretty decent base-stealer. Since he rarely walks and his batting average is due for a substantial drop, his OBP is going to be rather lousy, cutting into his opportunities. He’s also obviously going to get caught a couple of times of those pro-rated 22. All these factors result in my 14 steal projection.

Below is my final projected batting line:

600 0.289 21 70 90 14 80% 0.335 12% 46%/21%/33%

Over a full season, this projected stat line at shortstop would earn about $17 in a standard 12-team mixed league according to my valuation method. Amazingly, that would have ranked him fifth among all shortstops in my pre-season projections, just behind Starlin Castro. However, keep in mind how much risk is involved. He has never played at Triple-A and the jump from Double-A to the Majors is much more difficult for hitters than pitchers. Since he has walked just twice in the Majors, pitchers might quickly adjust and stop throwing him strikes.

In addition, though Rutledge hasn’t exactly come out of nowhere, he wasn’t highly regarded before the season. Marc Hulet ranked him just 11th among Rockies prospects, suggesting that he possessed no more than gap power, peaking at 8-10 home runs in a season. Clearly, his .202 Double-A ISO was a pleasant surprise and maybe something changed that led to the improved power.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

11 Responses to “Projecting Josh Rutledge”

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  1. Pinstripe Wizard says:

    I think his power numbers have increased because he is batting stance is more upright. In college, he seems to be bent over slightly towards the plate, which meant he hit almost exclusively groundballs. The more upright stance should help him elevate the ball.

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    • Thanks for the explanation, and it makes sense. Alex Rios has also supposedly changed his stance to a more upright position which has been credited for his power surge.

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    • Paul says:

      I didn’t see him in college, but seeing his home run stroke in Colorado I was shocked. He generate tremendous leverage and above-average bat speed.

      A lot of people will scoff at this projection, but I think it could be low in the long-term. He is very athletic, but more of a triathlete type body than most MLB players. I think he could add quite a bit of muscle without sacrificing speed or flexibility. Probably the most impressive under-rated prospect I’ve seen this year (last year was Goldschmidt – I was far from alone, btw, so not tooting my horn).

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  2. Psst says:

    ” but his 2011 park suppressed them by 58% (is this for real?! this sounds like an error” The left field wall at John Thurman Field in Modesto is over 30 feet tall, and that park surpresses RH Power more than any other park in professional baseball. Who knows what Rutledge does long term but 8-10 HR seems really low for anyone who has seen him lashing line drives around the field.

    In traditional 5×5 sliding into a 2013 lineup behind Dexter Fowler .290/.380/.503 and in front of Cargo .327/.392/.569 means that if he is able to hit at all he he will rack up very nice R/RBI numbers and while his BB% is likely to be like Castro, his BA/HR/SB should be near .300/ 15-20/15-20 with dual 2B/SS eligibility he could be an awesome sleeper pick for 2013

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  3. Yes, that HR factor for 2011 is accurate, though it speaks to the HR inflation in the California League as anything else. Modesto deflates home runs as much as any park in that league, with the Nuts consistently allowing near the fewest HR in the league.

    As for him not being highly regarded, Purple Row had him rated at #9 in the org prior to the season. At that point, he had produced decently for a half season and out of his mind for a Half season, so it was difficult to know how real he was. Still, he was tabbed as a legitimate 2B of the future, starting in 2013.

    I’m not altogether sure he will be a 20 HR hitter regularly, but since Clint Barmes once hit 23 with Colorado, it definitely would be in his reach.

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  4. Brandon says:

    What happens to him next year when Tulo is back?

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  5. Ajay says:

    FYI, from August 2nd.

    Dan Szymborski ‏@DSzymborski
    Rutledge RoS ZiPS (in Coors obviously): 290/330/441, 5 HR, 23 RBI

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  6. Roxaintgood says:

    4 hits 3 Doubles 3 RBI’s last night in Dodger stadium.

    Looks good

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