NEW YORK -- Blake Rutherford grew up idolizing Derek Jeter and lists the Yankees as his favorite team, which is not all that uncommon among players his age. What is special, however, is that the promising high school outfielder is about to have a chance to wear the pinstripes for
NEW YORK -- Blake Rutherford grew up idolizing Derek Jeter and lists the Yankees as his favorite team, which is not all that uncommon among players his age. What is special, however, is that the promising high school outfielder is about to have a chance to wear the pinstripes for real.
The Yankees on Thursday selected Rutherford from Chaminade (Calif.) College Preparatory with the 18th overall selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. A 19-year-old left-handed hitter, Rutherford was rated as the No. 8 prospect by MLB.com in this year's Draft.
"Blake's a guy that we've scouted for a long time, and we couldn't be happier with him falling to us," said Damon Oppenheimer, the Yankees' vice president of domestic amateur scouting. "He's hit at a high level, he can run, he's a really good defender in center field, and he's got power. He's got a chance to have all the tools to profile."
• No. 62 overall: Nick Solak
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
:: Complete 2016 Draft coverage ::
As an above-average hitter with raw power and average-to-plus speed, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Rutherford has earned comparisons to Jim Edmonds and Grady Sizemore. Born in Morristown, N.J. before his family relocated to Simi Valley, Calif., Rutherford has committed to play for UCLA.
He recently told MLB.com that the Yankees have been scouting him since he was in the eighth grade, with plenty of other teams having shown interest. The increased attention has not been an issue, he said, a trait which could serve him well if he decides to head toward New York.
"I take pride in growing as a player so that every time a scout comes to see me again, there's something new to watch," Rutherford said. "I want something to stand out that didn't stand out before."
Rutherford hit .577 (45-for-78) with 34 runs scored, 13 doubles, a triple, four home runs and nine RBIs over 27 games as a senior to earn First-Team All-Mission League honors. He lettered four years at Chaminade, posting a .438 (109-for-249) career batting average in 90 games.
He also played for USA Baseball's 18U team twice, winning gold medals at the 2015 18U World Cup in Japan and 2014 18U Pan American Championship in Mexico.
"The fact that he's performed on a big stage with Team USA, where he's been a quality performer, makes it really exciting for us," Oppenheimer said.
Known more for his bat than his defense, Rutherford made strengthening his arm a priority entering his senior year, with encouraging results.
"I want to be a player that's very hard to critique," Rutherford said. "I want to be a player that you have to sit here and search and search and search and kind of almost make stuff up to critique, just because I really hold myself to a really high standard."
Chaminade head coach Frank Mutz said that he does not believe Rutherford will have much trouble transitioning to the professional ranks.
"It will be automatic," Mutz said. "I think it will be like Mike Trout, I think it will be like Bryce Harper and [Corey] Seager, some of those guys that came into the league young. I think this is a player that's going to be able to do that."
He is the 10th high school outfielder chosen by the Yankees in the first round of the Draft since its inception in 1965, and the first since Slade Heathcott in 2009.
Last year, the Yankees selected right-hander James Kaprielian from UCLA with their first-round pick (16th overall). The year prior, New York selected left-hander Jacob Lindgren from Mississippi State University with their top selection (55th overall).
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.