Adley's accolades: O's honor top prospect

Rutschman, Kyle Stowers named Brooks Robinson Minor League Co-Players of the Year

September 28th, 2021

BALTIMORE -- Some of the Minor Leagues' most decorated prospects added to their hardware Sunday, when the Orioles announced the recipients of their yearly player development awards. Here is the full slate of winners from the organization that boasts baseball’s best farm system, per MLB Pipeline:

Brooks Robinson Minor League Co-Players of the Year
C Adley Rutschman
OF Kyle Stowers

Anyone surprised here? Ranked as baseball’s top overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, Rutschman is raking at Triple-A Norfolk, hitting .319 with a .936 OPS in his first 38 games at the level. It’s been a brilliant end to the 2019 top overall pick’s first full season of pro ball, over which he experienced few hiccups and performed at an elite level on both sides of the ball.

All told, Rutschman is slashing .286/.399/.513 with 23 home runs across 118 games (80 at Double-A Bowie). The 23-year-old will be a hot ticket come next spring ahead of his much-anticipated MLB debut.

“We always talk about winning and winning together, having a group of guys who enjoy each other's company, enjoy each other and enjoy winning,” Rutschman said. “You can’t really draw it up any better than playing with your good friends and having a good group of people around you as you're playing. It makes the whole experience more fun and enjoyable, and that’s really what baseball is about.”

Rebuilds aren’t done in a day, and they take prospect depth to pull off. Rutschman is the headliner of the Orioles’ system, but the player who took the biggest leap forward in 2021 is Stowers, the club’s second-round pick out of Stanford in '19 and its No. 11 prospect.

Stowers began the year at High-A Aberdeen and ended it at Norfolk, hitting a system-high 27 homers across 120 games. Seventeen of those homers came at Double-A, where Stowers slugged .561 and had a .938 OPS in 66 games. The sweet-swinging outfielder also stole seven bases across three levels.

“It’s been a wild year, especially coming off no baseball for a full year,” said Stowers. “The nice thing about the year off was being able to put things back in perspective. I went into the year with no expectations, allowing myself to enjoy playing baseball again. Playing with that no-pressure mindset helped a lot for me and carried me though the season.”

Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year
RHP Grayson Rodriguez

This is the second consecutive honor for Rodriguez, whom MLB Pipeline recently ranked baseball’s top pitching prospect (No. 8 overall). He spent much of the summer excelling at Double-A as a 21-year-old, going 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts. Rodriguez compiled 103 total innings between Bowie and Aberdeen, striking out 161 against just 27 walks. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias is on record recently saying Rodriguez would also be in the mix for a big league job come next spring.

“Anything with Jim Palmer’s name on it is a pretty high achievement,” Rodriguez said. “The dream is to pitch in Camden Yards. It’s been that way ever since I was drafted by the Orioles. That’s pretty special to think about.”

Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award
Buck Britton
, Double-A Bowie

The 35-year-old Britton was tasked with overseeing the nest egg of the Orioles’ rebuild this summer at Bowie, where Rutschman, Rodriguez, Stowers and seven other Top 15 prospects spent at least part of the season.

Players raved of the culture Britton created in his second season at the helm in Bowie, and it translated to results on the field. The Baysox went 73-47, using a late-season run to sprint into the playoffs after Rutschman and Stowers were promoted to Norfolk. Given his age, style and success, Britton is seen as a rising star in Baltimore’s lauded system.

Jim Russo Scout of the Year Award
Brandon Verley

Verley signed Rutschman out of Oregon State in 2019, and '20 fourth-round pick Coby Mayo out of the South Florida high school ranks, after Verley’s coverage age shifted to the Sunshine State.