Blake Rutherford during the home run derby at the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Sunday, Aug. 16, 2015, in San Diego. (Lenny Ignelzi / AP)
Blake Rutherford grew up a Yankees fan in Southern California and then had the thrill of that organization drafting him out of high school in the first round last year. So the 20-year-old outfielder said it was "definitely difficult" to find out Tuesday he had been traded to the White Sox.
But he already is plotting a course for his new teammates.
"I don’t know a lot of players personally, but I know of them and what special talents they are and how good they’re going to be in the future," Rutherford said Friday on a conference call with Chicago media. "I’m excited about that. … Hopefully I continue to grow with them, and when we all make it up to the major leagues together we can be part of a World Series with the Chicago White Sox."
Rutherford was the key return piece in the trade that sent Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees this week, and he played his first game with low Class A Kannapolis on Thursday, going 1-for-5 with a run scored.
Ranked the Yankees’ No. 3 prospect before the trade, he hit .351 with 12 RBIs over 33 rookie-level games last year and was hitting .280 with 20 doubles, 30 RBIs, 25 walks and 56 strikeouts over 72 Class A games this year.
Just a little more than a year removed from high school, he said the Yankees put him in the right mental state to help him succeed.
"It’s just the mentality and being mentally strong every day, going in with a fresh start, whether you’re struggling or hitting well at the time," Rutherford said.
He said he has worked out with Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and hopes to emulate his game. Rutherford has hit five career homers — two this season — but he said increasing that number is not his focus right now.
"I’m not really worried about the power numbers," the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Rutherford said. "I’m just worried about continuing to learn and develop my swing. I’m only 20 years old, so I can only imagine hopefully I am going to continue to get bigger and stronger and maybe some of those line drives will turn into home runs."
With the addition of Eloy Jimenez, Blake Rutherford and Dylan Cease from two trades over the last week, the White Sox now have 10 players on MLB.com’s Top 100 prospects list. Here’s a look at their progress and when they might be expected to play for the White Sox.
Not far from Rutherford, left-handed pitching prospect Ian Clarkin is settling in at Class A Winston-Salem as the second biggest piece in the trade. The Yankees also sent over major-league reliever Tyler Clippard and outfield prospect Tito Polo.
Clarkin, who was ranked the Yankees’ No. 19 prospect, was the 33rd overall pick in the 2013 draft, but injuries have slowed his climb up the minor-league ranks.
He missed the 2015 season with an elbow injury, and a torn meniscus ended his 2016 season early.
"Every time you look back you get frustrated and you say, ‘Man, I missed a key year in developing. I’m a year older,’" Clarkin said. "I try to not look back as much as possible. I just keep all eyes on forward.
"I feel like I have a huge chip on my shoulder and never take playing for granted. Not playing is one of the hardest things to do. You get something you love so much taken away from you, it’s not fun."
Clarkin was 4-5 with a 2.62 ERA, 25 walks and 58 strikeouts over 752/3 innings this year in 14 starts and one relief appearance on the Yankees’ high-Class A team this year. He said he will make his first start with Winston-Salem on Sunday.
"At first I was just really nervous going to somewhere I’ve never been before and leaving somewhere where I am really, really comfortable," Clarkin said of the trade. "There were a lot of emotions. You are sad to leave the guys, but at the same time I was overpowered with excitement."