ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis area native who is 6 feet 8 inches tall, throws 98 mph and hopes to be as great as Max Scherzer someday, is expected to be a first-round draft pick on June 3.
And considering his talent and work ethic, many feel he has the potential to be one of the best baseball players to come out of St. Louis.
After spending a year pitching for Arkansas, Jackson Rutledge rehabbed a hip injury before dominating at San Jacinto Junior College (Texas) this past year. In 13 games for San Jac, the 20-year-old had 134 strikeouts over just 82 innings to go with an ERA of 0.87. He's now a national semifinalist for the USA Golden Spikes Award, which is an honor given to the top amateur baseball player in the country.
“I think I did well. I definitely got better," said Rutledge. "I was holding velocity late into innings, throwing 96, 98 at my hundredth pitch of the game, which was really exciting for me.”
The Rockwood Summit graduate was pegged as a possible sixth-rounder two years ago. But with the recent numbers he put up in Texas, including his improved pitch-arsenal—which boasts five pitches, if you count his two-seamer—Rutledge is expected to go in the middle of the first round of the MLB First-Year-Player Draft in two weeks.
It's possible Rutledge is the highest junior college player to be drafted in more than 20 years.
“I guess I would be a bias source here, but I think Jackson could very easily slot into a starting rotation at the Major League level and have high success," said Josh Kesel, co-owner of P3 in Wentzille and a trainer who has been working with Rutledge since his sophomore year in high school.
Kesel said Rutledge also saw his performance, and draft stock, sky-rocket once he locked into the educational side of pitching.
“One of the biggest things was learning kind of the specifics of pitch design. And what works best for him, and sequencing of pitches," he said.
As for who drafts him? It doesn't matter.
"We’ll see what happens," laughed Rutledge.
"Honestly, I have no idea what team is gonna draft me at this point. Everything is still kind of playing out. We’ll find out in a couple weeks I guess," he said.
What really matters to the Fenton native, is his craft. Rutledge wants to be one of the best baseball players to ever come out of St. Louis.
“If you look at the guys who have come out of St. Louis, like Max Scherzer, Ryan Howard, those guys are legendary. And it’s my goal to work hard and get to the point where I can be one of those guys eventually," he said.
"[I] still have a long way to go. I have a lot to prove. But that’s one of my goals, is to get to that point for St. Louis athletes. Maybe hang out with Nelly," laughed Rutledge.
The St. Louis Cardinals have the 19th pick in the first-round of the MLB Draft.
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