SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The Washington Nationals drafted a pitcher in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft, adding an arm to their organization with their first pick for the fourth-straight year. They've selected a pitcher with six of their past seven first round picks. The Nats' latest first-round selection is Jackson Rutledge, a right-hander out of San Jacinto Junior College, who they took with the 17th overall pick in the 2019 draft.
Rutledge, a St. Louis native, took a winding path to the first round of the draft. He went from the SEC to junior college, transferring from the University of Arkansas to San Jacinto College ahead of the 2019 season.
"It was a lot of maturity that I gained, a lot of knowledge on the game," Rutledge said of the big move. "It boosted my motivation, and I learned a lot about myself."
In 13 starts this season at San Jacinto, Rutledge went 9-2 with four complete games. He finished the season with a 0.87 ERA, that ranked first across the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). His 134 strikeouts ranked second in the NJCAA. As a freshman at the Arkansas in 2018, Rutledge went 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA but was used in only 12 games.
He has a high-velocity, high-spin fastball that typically sits in the 94-97 mph range, and both his slider and curveball are potential out pitches. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Rutledge's combination of size and pitching reservoir made him one of the best pitchers in this year's draft class.
Rutledge could eventually get the opportunity to join fellow St. Louis native Max Scherzer as part of Washington's rotation.
"Max Scherzer is another guy from St. Louis, a guy that I've looked up to over the years," Rutledge said minutes after hearing his name called at the MLB Network studio in Secaucus. "It'll be awesome to be a teammate of his. They've got a great staff, and I want to help add to that."
The Nationals have added another first round, right-handed pitcher to their pitcher-heavy farm system, and they'll hope the 20-year-old righty blossoms as a pro.