Dalton Rushing spent his first two collegiate seasons behind Louisville catcher Henry Davis. He tallied just 93 at-bats in his first two years, receiving time at first base and designated hitter.
Rushing admits it was difficult receiving only two starts at catcher. But the experience he gained watching Henry Davis was invaluable, he said. Davis made notable strides at Louisville to develop into the top overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft.
“Playing behind the first overall pick for two years was tough, but you learn a lot from it,” Rushing said. “I learned a whole lot from Henry. I want to take my game to the next level behind the plate and let the bat do its thing.”
Rushing is now Louisville’s starting catcher and an intriguing prospect for the 2022 MLB draft. Scouts believe Rushing has the intangibles to hear his name called in the early rounds of the draft if he puts together a complete season this spring.
“No one on the team looks at that,” said Rushing on the draft attention. “Last year, it got into a few guys’ heads. Henry Davis had the perfect mindset. He worked his butt off every single game and did everything he could to help us win games. It showed and paid off for him. That’s what you have to do.”
In his first two years at Louisville, Rushing posted a .269 batting average with six doubles, five home runs and 20 RBIs.
After serving as a reserve during his sophomore season, Rushing gained notoriety in the prestigious Cape Cod League last summer. He hit .314 with nine doubles, six home runs and 24 RBIs in 118 at-bats.
Rushing hopes to carry his summer success into his junior season this spring. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound catcher uses a short and compact swing from the left side of the plate to drive the ball with power to all fields. He has an aggressive approach but shows respectable plate discipline.
Scouts rave about Rushing’s offensive skills. His development defensively this spring will be critical in determining his draft position. Rushing has solid receiving skills and above-average arm strength. The one knock scouts have of Rushing is his below-average athleticism.
“A lot of people look at the bat as being the tool that stands out,” Rushing said. “In the offseason, I did a lot of catching. I don’t want to be known as a guy that is a below-average catcher. I want to be known as the guy who can do it all. Showing those defensive tools this year would be huge.”
While Rushing will likely have a chance to pursue a pro career after this season, his primary focus remains on Louisville’s success. Rushing possesses a team-first mindset and hopes to lead the Cardinals back to the NCAA tournament after they missed the tournament last year due to a disappointing 28-22 record.
Last year marked the first time since 2011 that the Cardinals missed the NCAA tournament. Although they lost a plethora of talent from last year’s team, the Cardinals have the pieces to qualify for the postseason this spring.
“This is the best-bonded team I have been a part of here at Louisville,” Rushing said. “This year holds a lot of potential to do a lot of great things. Of course, all these guys want to look over us after last year. But it all goes back to the standard of Louisville baseball, which is to win games.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for seven years. He has interviewed 356 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.