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White Sox Prospect Blake Rutherford Discusses his Development, Nick Madrigal

White Sox prospect Blake Rutherford discusses his progress in 2018, the impact of Dash manager Omar Vizquel, Nick Madrigal and more with Eli Hershkovich.

Blake Rutherford has strung together a respectable season at class A-Advanced Winston Salem after coming over in the Todd Frazier package last July, slashing .289/.340/.431 with six home runs and 73 RBI. He’s currently the sixth-highest rated prospect (MLB Pipeline) in the White Sox farm system.

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound outfielder spoke with The Loop Sports about his progress in the minors and his friend-turned-teammate Nick Madrigal. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

The Loop Sports: Has it been frustrating to stay in Winston-Salem all season?

Blake Rutherford: I still have a lot I gotta work on. … Obviously, everyone wants to get promoted and get to a step closer to Chicago, but I’m surrounded by a good group of guys. I believe that the White Sox have a plan for me, and something they want me to check off every step of the way. I’m just trying to do my best to check off everything I need to and become a better player.

TLS: What do you still need to work on?

Blake Rutherford: My defense. … My jumps in the outfield, trying to get to the balls that I couldn’t get to over the past couple years. That just comes from B.P., getting live reads, locking in during the game and seeing where the pitch is located and what the hitters have done in the past. Just trying to get an extra edge to get to some of those balls. I want to continue to develop and be an all-around hitter but more so continue to stress the base running and the defense every year.

TLS: White Sox GM Rick Hahn has stressed for prospects to improve their strikeout-to-walk ratio before moving up through the farm system. Is that an area your aiming to improve?

Blake Rutherford: Obviously, I’ve struck out a lot this year (87:32 K-to-BB ratio). Sometimes I miss my pitch. Other times I get myself into counts that aren’t hitter friendly counts, and I end up chasing a pitch. Maybe it’ll come from trying to be a little more disciplined at the pitches I like to swing at early in counts. I try and take walks when I know there’s a chance they might not pitch to me, or when it’s a situation when they might get me to chase.

TLS: What have you enjoyed about playing for Dash manager Omar Vizquel, who spent 24 years in the majors?

Photo: Andrew Dye / Winston-Salem Journal

Blake Rutherford: He’s definitely picked up on little things in the game that he’s been able to just cause we haven’t had the experiences he’s had and played with the players he’s played with. You just take any bit of knowledge you can [from him]. A little bit of knowledge everyday can impact your game in a big way.

TLS: How has Vizquel’s small-ball philosophy impacted you?

Blake Rutherford: More so plate discipline, but Charlie Poe — the hitting coach — has been big. There’s been times over a long season where your swing starts to feel a little different. We just honed in on making sure I’m balanced in the box, my timing is good and I have good separation to be able to get to all of the pitches I want to be able to get to.

TLS: Your on-base percentage (. 340) is sound. How have you progressed as a hitter this season?

Blake Rutherford: Just continuing to make hard contact. … I may only have six home runs, but I feel like I’ve hit a lot of balls hard. I know I’m not into launch angle, I like to hit line drives or hard-hit balls all over the yard. This year, I’ve definitely had the most hard contact that I’ve ever had.

TLS: White Sox 2018 first-round pick Nick Madrigal has turned heads quickly in High-A. How has he impressed you?

Photo: Winston-Salem Dash

Blake Rutherford: I played with him in youth ball (USA Baseball U15-16). He’s been one of my good friends. I was excited when he got drafted, and he obviously came here fast. He’s got great plate discipline, good barrel awareness, hits the ball hard consistently. Defensively, it’s just a lot of fun to watch. I play in right field, and sometimes I get caught up watching the plays he makes at second. He made a great play up the middle [on Wednesday] with a jump throw.

You just never know what he’s going to do, but he’s such a solid rock at second base. Majority of the time, he’s going to make the play. … I’ve always thought he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with or against. He’s always been on the shorter side (height wise), so that’s always been a knock on him. But he can do all the things on a baseball field. He’s a terrible guy to have to play against.

Follow Eli Hershkovich on Twitter — Feature Photo Credit: Chris Robertson/KZONEimages

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