With their first round selection in the 2016 draft (18th overall), the Yankees selected California HS OF Blake Rutherford. He’s from Chaminade College Preparatory School in Chatsworth, so scouting director Damon Oppenheimer once again went for a Southern California player. That’s Oppenheimer’s go-to locale. When in doubt, expect the Yankees to take the SoCal kid.
Rutherford was one of the very best prospects in the draft class. In fact, Keith Law says several folks consider Rutherford a better pure hitter than fellow SoCal prep outfielder Mickey Moniak, who was taken first overall by the Phillies. Law (subs. req’d) ranked Rutherford as the sixth best prospect in the entire draft while MLB.com ranked him eighth and Baseball America ranked him ninth. Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s free scouting report:
The left-handed-hitting outfielder from the Southern California high school ranks can do just about everything on a baseball field. Rutherford has the chance to be an above-average hitter with above-average raw power. He’ll record average to plus run times, and his speed helps him on the basepaths and in the outfield. Rutherford is a solid defender in the outfield, though most feel he’ll move to right field in the future. The good news is his bat should profile just fine if that move does happen.
The Yankees have favored college players in recent years and they seem to have a knack for out-of-nowhere picks. Rutherford is the opposite of that. He was the best player on the board according to the various rankings, and the only real knock against him is his age. Rutherford turned 19 last month and is one of the oldest high schoolers in the draft class.
Because he was considered a top ten talent, chances are the Yankees will have to pay Rutherford an overslot bonus to get to pass on his commitment to UCLA. Slot money for the 18th pick is $2.44M. Expect to see the Yankees take some cheaper players in rounds two through ten. They need to save some pool space to sign Rutherford.