Yankees May Have Gotten the Best Player in the 2016 Draft Class


According to several prominent prospect evaluators, the New York Yankees may have landed the best overall player in the 2016 June amateur draft.

In a recent chat, Keith Law of ESPN was asked whether Cincinnati Reds third baseman Nick Senzel, the second player taken in the 2016 draft, was the obvious hitter you’d want from this year’s class, and KLaw responded simply, “No, Rutherford is,” referring to New York Yankees selection Blake Rutherford, who was taken 18th overall.

Law isn’t alone in this opinion. In his end of 2016 Top 100 Prospects list, John Sickels of Minor League Ball ranked Rutherford the 47th best young talent in the minor leagues, notably one spot ahead of the player who was taken first overall in the draft this year by the Philadelphia Phillies, outfielder Mickey Moniak.

Rutherford was the highest ranked player from the 2016 draft class on Sickel’s list. He also managed to beat out Brewers outfielder Corey Ray (61st), Athletics pitcher A.J. Puk (64th), and Senzel (66th), all of whom were selected ahead of the Yankees 19-year-old prospect.

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Baseball America is also sky-high on Rutherford, ranking him third in the system on their 2017 New York Yankees Top 10 Prospects after just 33 games as a professional. BA’s Josh Norris calls him “a four-tool player” and notes that some scouts have put future 60 grades on both his hit tool and his power. On the downside, Norris thinks his below-average arm could push him off of center field to left. The future looks pretty bright for Rutherford if that’s the worst you can say about him.

While the sample size was small, Rutherford’s professional debut this year couldn’t have gone better. He began the year with a brief tuneup with the club’s Gulf Coast League affiliate, going 6-for-25 with his first career homer. After moving up to the Pulaski Yankees of the Appalachian League, Rutherford kicked it into high gear, hitting .382/.440/.618 with 13 extra-base hits in 100 plate appearances.

Even at the time, New York’s selection of Rutherford with the 18th spot seemed like a steal, but now you can make the argument they lucked into the most promising player available this year.

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Rutherford is probably heading to the Sally League to player for the Low-A Charleston Riverdogs to begin 2017. That’s very impressive for a 20-year-old. If he continues to perform like he did last year, he could climb the ladder quickly and hit majors sometime in the 2018-2019 range.