WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge, the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, had never been to Nationals Park, or even D.C., before arriving Sunday night with his family -- his mother, father and two sisters. They stood on the field during batting practice before Monday night’s game against the
WASHINGTON -- Jackson Rutledge, the Nationals' first-round pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, had never been to Nationals Park, or even D.C., before arriving Sunday night with his family -- his mother, father and two sisters. They stood on the field during batting practice before Monday night’s game against the Phillies, giving Rutledge a chance to take in the experience and to meet some of the guys he hopes will be his future teammates.
• Nationals' 2019 Draft picks
The Nationals announced Monday that they agreed to terms with Rutledge, a 6-foot-8 right-hander from San Jacinto College, whom they selected with the 17th overall pick in the Draft on June 3. The slot value for the pick was $3.61 million, and Rutledge reportedly signed for just under that amount, agreeing to a $3.45 million bonus, per MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis.
Ever since he was drafted, Rutledge has been champing at the bit to get back on the mound, tossing bullpen sessions on the side to stay fresh and work on offspeed pitches. And after his tour of Nationals Park on Monday, Rutledge is headed to the Nationals' complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he is expected to pitch in the Gulf Coast League before eventually making his way to pitch for Class A Short-Season Auburn.
“It’s really just a dream come true,” Rutledge said. “You get drafted, and then I had to wait -- it was not a fun time waiting. I’m ready to get after it and start playing some professional baseball.”
The Nationals left the Draft excited about selecting Rutledge, believing they found a future ace in the middle of the first round. His fastball velocity sits in the mid-90s and can reach near triple digits, with a slider that he can use as a wipeout pitch and a curveball that has the potential to be another plus pitch, per MLB Pipeline’s scouting report. He has also been working on developing a changeup that he learned from Ross Detwiler, who spent 10 seasons in the Majors, seven with the Nats.
Rutledge shared a chat on the field with manager Dave Martinez, who joked that he “might have to stand on a stool” to see eye-to-eye with the tall right-hander. And Rutledge got a chance to go around the clubhouse and meet a few Nationals players Monday, including some of the aces he one day hopes to share a rotation with. Rutledge named this experience as one of the main highlights for his introduction to D.C.
“This staff is incredible with the guys they have,” Rutledge said. “And I kind of just want to be one of those guys that has that success like the ones now.
“I’m ready to start playing baseball again. I’m ready to get back to getting better and all that, competing against other hitters.”
Rutledge took a bit of an unorthodox path to the 2019 Draft. He was projected to go as high as the first five rounds coming out of high school in '17, but after strongly indicating that he was committed to pitch at Arkansas, he went undrafted. Rutledge was limited by a torn hip labrum to just 15 2/3 innings as a freshman and was left off the Razorbacks' postseason roster. The injury required surgery, which helped lead to his decision to transfer to San Jacinto.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.