Fantasy Baseball 2013: The Value of Rockies Infielder Josh Rutledge


You’re not going to find many baseball prognosticators forecasting great things for the Colorado Rockies in 2013. But while the pitching staff looks to be a train wreck, the offense should give plenty of fantasy baseball value. As a person who follows the NL West closely, I got a healthy dose of a lot of the Rockies young players towards the end of the 2012 season. I can tell you that looking at some of their batters, I was pretty impressed.

One of the players that really caught my eye was Josh Rutledge, who was the primary replacement for Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop in 2012 (thus will have eligibility there in 2013), and is slated to be the team’s second baseman this year. So, about a few weeks into the year, there is a pretty good chance that he’ll have eligibility both places, which carries a lot of value for the following reason.

At the infield positions and catcher, we try to come up with 25 guys per position. We realize that at some positions, there won’t be more than about 10-15 guys per league swooped up, but we always like to list some options as injury replacements, or for super leagues. After going over first base and catcher, Clave and I did a little sneak preview of the two middle infield positions. There are some good names, but the pickings are pretty slim overall.

So now that we’ve gone through that detour, let’s take a look at Rutledge, a capable middle-infield hitter who will get to play half of his games at Coors Field. So, we’re off to a good start. Now for some numbers.

Rutledge sported a cool .320 batting average in the minor leagues, highlighted by a .348 clip in 2011. Those numbers were not altitude-aided, either. The 2011 season was with the Single A Modesto Nuts of the California League. At the start of 2012, he was promoted to the Double A Tulsa Drillers, going .306 before getting called up to the show, without a trip to the Triple A Colorado Springs Sky Sox in between. It’s hard to not see some encouragement there.

Now, moving on to what he did in the show in 2012:

  • 73 games played, 277 at bats, 37 runs, 8 home runs, 37 RBI, 7 steals, .274 batting average. 

We’ll look at some other numbers shortly, but I want to focus a little bit on that batting average. At a glance, it’s less than impressive. But look at how that was split out over three months.

Month H-AB Avg.
July 24-63 .381
August 26-82 .317
September/October 26-132 .197

The last month of the season was a little rough, for sure. But heading into September, he was hitting .345 in the majors. Now, if you want to take the pessimistic point of view, you could say that Major League pitchers figured him out. But it’s just as likely that he was playing a longer season than he’d ever played (remember, the Minor League season is over at the end of August) and got a little tired. Now that he’s gone that deep into a year and knows that he’ll be in the majors for 2013, it only stands to reason that he would be more prepared for a six-month campaign.

Now, I am not going to tell you that Rutledge will be the next Jeff Kent, or Robinson Cano for you youngsters out there. Judging by his home run rates, even in the minors, even if Rutledge manages 600 at-bats, you’re looking at a guy who’s probably not going to produce more than 15 home runs, and even that would probably be a good power year. For every 100 at-bats, he’ll get you an average of about 2.5 homers. Still, that’s not bad for a middle infielder, especially one who should swipe about 15-20 bases (which Rutledge should get), who can also hit north of .280 (which Rutledge should get).

In 2012, Rutledge’s slugging and OPS marks came in at .469 and .775. Take a look at what those marks mean.

  • At Second Base: That slugging percentage would have been third among all Major League second basemen, trailing only Cano and Aaron Hill. As a point of reference, stalwarts Dustin Pedroia, Brandon Phillips, and Ian Kinsler came in at .449, .429, and .423, respectively.

The 2012 OPS would have been fourth among all all Major League second basemen, trailing only Cano, Hill, and Pedroia. Phillips came in at .750, while Kinsler was just behind at .749.

In the OPS department, only Desmond, Jeter, and Reyes were better among qualified shortstops. Cabrera finished at .762, Castro at .753, and Rollins at .743.

 

To be fair, I do need to mention that Rutledge didn’t have the at-bats to qualify for the league lead at either position. But playing about half of the season, he had enough to say that that’s a pretty fair sample size. If he’s anywhere near those rates over a full year, Rutledge will be rubbing shoulders with some pretty elite company as far as your fantasy team is concerned.

Winning a fantasy baseball league is not all about getting the MVP and Cy Young Award candidates. Yes, I’d love to get a Ryan Braun, but if I don’t get a Top 3 pick, that won’t happen. I’d love for Cano to be my second baseman, but may not be in position to grab him.

You win your fantasy baseball leagues when gambles that you take pay off. Here we are, about two months from Opening Day, and Rutledge is a middle infield risk worth taking.