LOS ANGELES — Among the more impressive traits for the Dodgers’ first pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, Louisville catcher Dalton Rushing, might be his patience.
In his first two years in college, he was behind Henry Davis on the catching depth chart, which isn’t much of a slight since Davis was the first-overall pick in the 2021 draft by Pittsburgh. Rushing, who said he’s caught since he was nine or ten years old, had to adapt.
“It was a little weird coming into college and not catching the first two years,” Rushing said on a conference call Sunday night. “Circumstances vary, but I kind of showed over the last year that I took advantage of the situation, and grew in every single area that I could.”
As a freshman and sophomore, Rushing played sparingly but learned from Davis, and in his chances to play, totaling 38 games and 25 starts over one season plus the COVID-truncated 2020 campaign, Rushing hit .269/.364/.495 with five home runs.
Rushing as a junior was the primary catcher for Louisville, but still mixed in several starts at designated hitter. So much so that Rushing’s Baseball America scouting report said, “Scouts came away impressed with his defensive ability and wondered why he wasn’t catching every day for the Cardinals, with fine receiving skills and plus arm strength.”
Despite Rushing catching relatively little overall in college, the Dodgers plan to use him behind the plate in the minors, though didn’t rule out that his athleticism might open up possibilities for future positions in the future.
“We really believe that the catching outcome is going to be possible and a path he can do. We like his strength, we like his athleticism. We thought he could hit with power and control the zone,” Dodgers VP of amateur scouting Billy Gasparino said on a conference call. “Some of the sporadic playing time back there clouded what we thought is a very talented catcher.”
He did have eye-popping numbers at the plate, hitting .310/.470/.686 with 23 home runs in 64 games, ranking in the top 10 in several categories in the ACC.
“The left-handed, power-hitting catcher is an old scouting cliché, but I do think it holds true, that there’s some truth to it,” Gasparino said.
“I believe I was able to slow the game down a bit as I progressed through college,” Rushing said. “Coming in as a freshman, the speed of the game can take control of you, and it can hurt you from time to time.”
Rushing also improved his body, going form 5’11, 235 pounds as a freshman in college to listed at 6’1, 220 as a junior, which Rushing credited to eating better and getting smarter in the weight room, in an interview last week with Alexis Cubit of the Louisville Courier Journal.
In the same article, Louisville baseball coach Dan McDonnell described the transformation thusly:
“You went from, I don’t know, baby fat is the right word, phrase, but his body wasn’t going to be featured on any muscle magazine. Let’s put it that way,” McDonnell said. “He got tightened up. He got stronger, leaner.”
In addition to playing behind Davis, Rushing also comes from a Louisville catching pipeline that produced Will Smith, drafted by the Dodgers at No. 32 overall in 2016.
Welcome to the Dodgers, Dalton Rushing! pic.twitter.com/OqlnjzpnJZ— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) July 18, 2022
Rushing said he got a congratulatory text from Smith earlier Sunday.
The Dodgers have become quite familiar with Louisville in recent years. In addition to Smith in 2016, they drafted pitcher Bobby Miller in the first round in 2020, and he’s now rated as their top pitching prospect. The Dodgers also drafted infielder Devin Mann in the fifth round in 2018, and he’s now in Double-A Tulsa.
“We really understand what they do, and how they train their players. I think they’ve built a great foundation for their players, and we usually know what kind of person we’re getting,” Gasparino said of Louisville. “It’s a little coincidental, but we’re really excited to have him. We really respect that program and the type of players they develop.”
Rushing was complimentary of Dan McDonnell, his college coach.
“I believe Coach Mac and the coaching staff at Louisville help you prepare yourself for moments like this,” Rushing said, “when you step into a bigger organization and start your professional career.”