When Henry Davis went first overall to the Pittsburgh Pirates last year, it left a hole at catcher for Louisville. Dalton Rushing stepped right in. He has handled most of the duties behind the plate for the Cardinals in 2022 and has the chance to be a first-round pick in July. A top-5 backstop in this year’s MLB Draft, let’s take a look at where Rushing may be playing ball professionally.
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Dalton Rushing, Catcher/First Base, Louisville
Weight: 220 lbs.
2021 Stats: 28 G, .254/.342/.463, 4 HR, 9 R, 14 RBI
2022 Stats: 62 G, .310/.476/.685, 22 HR, 67 R, 60 RBI
As you can see from the stats above, something has clicked for Rushing at the plate. It actually started in the summer of 2021 when he went to play in the Cape Cod league. In 34 games with Bourne and his first experience with the wood bat, Rushing had a .944 OPS and started driving the ball more, tapping into his power. He parlayed that into a big offensive year for Louisville this season and has improved his plate discipline immensely with 50 walks to just 55 strikeouts.
Rushing is a solidly built left-handed hitter who can drive the baseball to all parts of the park. He started making loud contact on a more consistent basis and his power is showing in games. He has a compact swing for a lefty without much of a leg kick. The 21-year-old stays balanced in his approach and doesn’t have much movement per-pitch aside from a slight waggle. Rushing may get even better at the dish with refinement in pitch recognition. That is scary for opposing pitchers as the lefty’s bat is already explosive.
Defensively, some scouts think he can stick behind the plate and be at least an average receiver. His arm plays up with both strength and accuracy. A lot will depend on how he calls a game and if he can improve his agility as a backstop. His quick hands and body type could work to his advantage with the equipment on.
Speed is not part of his game, but that is the case for many catchers. It really is a non-starter in discussing Rushing’s weaknesses. However, his work behind the plate has people torn. As mentioned, some scouts believe with practice and proper training, he could be serviceable behind the dish. There are others that think he is destined for first base. His lack of speed and agility pigeonholes him into those two positions which makes his bat the only carrying tool.
Pro Comparison: Carlos Santana
Rushing is similar in stature and could have the plate discipline to match. Some will remember that Santana started as a catcher with Cleveland but quickly moved to a first base/designated hitter role. Rushing may see the same trajectory. If the Louisville star can keep the gains he made over this past year at the plate, he could have a long and productive career making pitchers throw the ball over plate and pay if they do.
Draft Prediction: Cincinnati Reds, Round 2, Pick 55
The Reds will eventually have to find a replacement for Joey Votto. If they believe Rushing can be decent behind the plate, then that is just a bonus as they selected Mat Nelson 35th overall last year and have Tyler Stephenson there for a while. The Reds need to add some thump to their lineup after giving away Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suarez. With Votto on the cusp of retirement, Rushing could be that bat. In the second round, this could be a steal.
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