Is Josh Rutledge Ready to Fill Kendrick’s Shoes?


The Angels completed a trade with the Colorado Rockies last week that brought infielder, Josh Rutledge, to the big A in exchange for relief pitcher, Jairo Diaz. The deal was agreed to just minutes after the Halos sent second baseman, Howie Kendrick, to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Angels had been linked to Rutledge in the days leading to the trade, but there were no indication a deal was close. Obviously, Jerry Dipoto brought Rutledge in to compete for the starting second base job in 2015.

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The Rockies selected Rutledge in the third round of the 2010 amateur draft out of the University of Alabama. Rutledge flat out dominated in the minor leagues, cruising to the big leagues in 2012 as a 23-year-old. Rutledge brings a career minor league batting average of .328 with him to Anaheim. Rutledge has hit 27 home runs, driven in 127 runs, stolen 35 bases, and posted an OBP of .386 during his time in the Rockies system.

However, those superb offensive numbers have yet to translate to the Major Leagues. Rutledge had an impressive rookie season, batting .274, with 8 home runs and 37 RBI’s across 291 at bats. Rutledge took a step back in 2013, batting .235 and earning a demotion to the Rockies triple-A affiliate in Colorado Springs. Rutledge looked like a more mature hitter when he got his chance in 2014, and posted an average of .269, while hitting 4 home runs and driving in 33 across 309 at bats. Rutledge rediscovered his patience last season, which contributed to his impressive .323 on base percentage. Over parts of three seasons with the Rockies, Rutledge has posted a .259 batting average, clubbed 19 dingers, collected 89 RBI’s, stolen 21 bases, and put up an OBP of .308.

Jul 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies shortstop Josh Rutledge (14) fields a ground ball during the third inning against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Defense is not Rutledge’s strong suit. Rutledge has split time between second base, shortstop, and third base during his career, but his focus has mainly been up the middle. Although the 25-year-old has shown himself to be a versatile defender, he is not an overly impressive one. In 2014, Rutledge posted a .961 fielding percentage at shortstop, which was far below the league average of .975. More worrisome was his drop in range factor. In 2012, Rutledge posted a 4.47 range factor per 9 innings at shortstop, in 2014 that number dropped to 3.89.

The Rockies grew frustrated with Rutledge’s inconsistency at the dish, and struggles in the field. Rutledge has the tools to be a gifted offensive contributor, but has yet to harness that potential. Defense has never been his primary focus, but shifting from shortstop to second base should make things simpler. Rutledge has to build off of last season, and keep improving offensively if he plans to have a long career in the big leagues. Rutledge will not be arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season, so he does have some time to get better but the next couple of seasons will be critical.

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It appears as though Rutledge will compete directly with, Grant Green, this spring in Tempe for the starting second base job. The loser between the two will likely handle the utility infielder role. Green was impressive last season with the Halos batting .273 with 1 home run and collecting 11 RBI’s. Green has the ability to play all over the infield, and even played 17 games in leftfield last season. The Angels are still pursuing other options, and were very active in the Rule 5 draft selecting infielders, Taylor Featherston, Chris Curley, and, Pedro Ruiz. Dipoto has said that bringing back free agent infielder, Gordon Beckham, is a priority for the club.

At this juncture, it is impossible to predict who will win the second base job in Anaheim next season, but if I had to lay odds, I would give Josh Rutledge the slight edge. Rutledge has a more developed offensive skill set than his competitors and is two years younger than Green. The fact that the Halos gave up a promising young reliever to acquire Rutledge suggests Dipoto and his cohorts think highly of the 25-year-old middle infielder. Green is a more versatile defender, and would likely be more useful as the Angels utility man next season.

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