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He's not the most popular name at the moment, but Rutledge is going to be in a position to score big this season.
It was a relatively young Rockies team that went to the World Series in 2007, and possibly an even younger and more talented team that won a franchise-high 92 games in 2009. Troy Tulowitzki, a leader then at age 24, plus Chris Iannetta, Ian Stewart, Seth Smith, Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez, and Ubaldo Jimenez. Which makes it all the more disappointing that this young and exciting team lost a franchise-record 98 games in 2012.
The return of Tulowitzki is helpful, but I don't think people are expecting much from Colorado this year. Though the Rockies have always had a problem with pitching, and probably always will, there's a difference between a staff with ERA's in the 4.00's and a staff with ERAs that range between 5 an 6.50. While the lineup could produce a lot of runs, the team will need significant improvement from Drew Pomeranz, Jorge de la Rosa, Jhoulys Chacin, Christian Friedrich, and others. But still, in terms of fantasy baseball, look at that lineup!
Even if the Rockies don't win a lot, they have a number of high-end fantasy hitters.
Dexter Fowler, OF
Josh Rutledge, 2B
Carlos Gonzalez, OF
Troy Tulowitzki, SS
Michael Cuddyer, OF
Todd Helton, 1B
Chris Nelson, 3B
Tulo and Gonzalez are already well-known quantities that could be popped off in the first round of your fantasy draft. Even if Tulo played in just 47 games last season, he's practically more myth than man. A shortstop that is also a great hitter, he hit .302/.372/.544 with 30 HR, 105 RBI, 81 R, and 9 SB in 2011. There's little reason to think that if healthy he won't approach those numbers again.
CarGo might never approach his historical numbers from 2010 again (.336/.376/.598, 34 HR, 117 RBI, 26 SB, 197 hits) but he doesn't need to get there to be valuable. .300/.370/.520, 25 HR, 20 SB is reasonable and awesome. Fowler came out strokin' last year, hitting .333/.452/.700 with 4 HR, 2 2B, 4 3B, 15 R, and 3 SB over 25 games in May, but was more of what you'd reasonably expect from Dexter Fowler over the rest of the season. Still, he's a good leadoff hitter that could provide some opportunity to drive in runs to the guys behind him. Which brings me to the subject of today's article: Josh Rutledge.
In some ways, Rutledge reminds me of Kyle Seager. Seager was a 3rd round pick by the Mariners in 2009 out of UNC that didn't come with a hype machine necessarily, but might have the tools to make it in the majors as a utility infielder. However, we can't ignore that the 3rd round is pretty damn high. Your odds of making it to the major leagues aren't great by any means, but there are fifty rounds in the amateur draft. You've got a better chance than most.
Seager didn't come in with much hype, not like teammate Dustin Ackley, but he's outperformed his highly-touted brosef. The other Tar Heel hit .345/.419/.503 in 2010 at High Desert (which always lends to being a mirage, naturally) but followed that up with a .333/.399/.495 season between AA and AAA in 2011. Seager then came up to Seattle and hit .258/.312/.379 in 53 games as a rookie. Going into last year he was literally still behind Chone Figgins on a depth chart, but ended up being the Mariners best hitter: .259/.316/.423, 20 HR, 86 RBI, 35 doubles, 13 SB.
Maybe being the best hitter on the Mariners isn't so phenomenal, but imagine what Seager could have done if he played for the Rockies? Well, we might not have to imagine that because we've got Rutledge.
Josh Rutledge was a 3rd round pick out of the University of Alabama in 2010. You're already seeing the similarities, am I right?! He hit .348/.414/.517 in the Cal League in 2011 and then .306/.338/.508 in 87 game at AA Tulsa. Called up to Colorado in July, Rutledge hit .274/.306/.469 with 8 HR, 37 RBI, 37 R, 20 2B, and 7 SB in 73 games. Double those numbers and you've got yourselves a stew going. Hitting between Fowler and Tulowitzki/Gonzalez over a full season provides ample opportunity for Rutledge to possibly reach 100 runs scored with a respectable batting average, home run, and stolen base totals. ZIPS currently projects .280/.316/.445, 16 HR, 73 RBI, 73 R, and 19 SB.
But if CarGo and Tulo play a full year and up to their potential, the reward could be even greater.
Rutledge isn't necessarily a star, but that's not what you're looking for after 10 rounds in a fantasy baseball draft which is where you'll be able to bide your time before drafting him. Second base is a rather deep position as it is, specifically because Rutledge provides solid value at a low cost, rather than the premium you'll pay for Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia.
As you see in Fake Teams Top 200 Rankings, instead you could wait for Rutledge or Kyle Seager. The two, uncoincidentally, are ranked almost side-by-side.