WASHINGTON - Jackson Rutledge, 21, certainly has the size, demeanor, and arsenal to make the major leagues.
But while he has yet to play above Single-A, one of the Nationals’ top prospects has already surrounded himself with a big-league atmosphere.
For the first time, Rutledge has spent this off-season working out in Florida at Cressey Sports Performance.
Other pitchers who are regulars there include Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin, Kyle McGowin, and new Nationals’ reliever Brad Hand.
“The best part is the environment,” Rutledge told Federal Baseball on Sunday from Florida.
“There are a lot of big-time guys there and you get to watch them and see how they do things.”
“I am just getting my body ready,” Rutledge added. “I feel great right now and I feel ready for the season to get going. I have been throwing a lot, getting my arm ready and throwing off the mound. I am lifting three days a week. My body feels great. I hope to be able to throw a lot of innings this year.”
Rutledge went home to Missouri for the holidays but since then has been in Florida, where he works out six days a week at Cressy. He plans to be in the West Palm Beach area until the start of Spring Training, which is up in the air for the minors right now due to the ongoing pandemic.
Rutledge was a first-round pick of the Nationals in 2019 out of San Jacinto College in Houston, Texas.
He made 10 starts in his first pro season that year, including six with low Single-A Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League.
Last year he was part of the alternate site in Fredericksburg, VA, and he then took part in Instructional League in Florida in October.
Washington’s low Single-A team will be in Fredericksburg this year with Wilmington the new home of the high Single-A club in the minor league system.
“He does have a purpose for what he is doing,” instructor Justin Lord told Federal Baseball on Sunday about Rutledge. “He has the talent, he is into analytics. He knows what it takes” to move up the ladder.
Lord has been able to see Rutledge first-hand at Instructional League in 2019 and 2020 and at Spring Training last year.
A former minor league pitcher, Lord is slated to be the pitching coach for high Single-A Wilmington of the Carolina League in 2021.
Lord said Rutledge compares favorably with Cade Cavalli, the Nationals’ 2020 1st Round pick, and the two are among the top right-handed pitching prospects in all of the minors, according to Baseball America.
“They are both big, right-handed and throw hard,” Lord said Sunday.
Rutledge doesn’t get caught up in the hype.
“To be honest, I don’t aim to look at those types of things,” Rutledge said of the prospect rankings.
“They obviously have a purpose. They don’t necessarily define how I am working, and what I am working towards and what I think about my own ability. It is awesome to hear, especially for the family. But I am focusing on myself.”
He is focused on the task at hand and talked this offseason with Lord and Brad Holman, the pitching coordinator for player development.
“I am just getting my body ready,” said Rutledge, who has played some golf and spent time at the beach in Florida. “I feel great right now and I feel ready for the season to get going.”
Rutledge has not talked to Jim Hickey, the new pitching coach for the Nationals. “I have heard good things,” Rutledge said.