BALTIMORE -- Less than three full years after the Orioles drafted him first overall, Adley Rutschman arrived in Baltimore this weekend to immense hype and promise. MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect started behind the plate against the Rays at Camden Yards and went 1-for-3 with a triple and a walk.
It marks the most anticipated debut for an Orioles prospect in recent memory, with Rutschman profiling as the top blue-chipper of the organization’s years-long rebuild and its first to reach the Majors. Here is the info you need for his debut:
Why is he such a big deal?
A switch-hitting catcher with advanced defensive skills and plus power, Rutschman is about as rare a prospect, skillset-wise, as they come. He was the country’s consensus top prospect for two full seasons at Oregon State -- and arguably the most hyped Draft pick since Bryce Harper when the Orioles selected him first overall in 2019. Rutschman didn’t do anything in the Minors to quiet that buzz, rising to the game’s top-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline in summer 2021. He is seen as a potential face of the franchise for a Baltimore team hoping to turn the corner after its years-long rebuild.
How will the Orioles use him?
The Orioles were prudent not to rush Rutschman, despite their struggles in the Majors, throughout his Minor League tenure. He played at every level in his climb up their system, reaching Triple-A in 2021 after the 2020 season was canceled. Now that he’s in the Majors, he’s here to stay -- and play.
The organization limited Rutschman’s catching early in his Minor League career with an eye toward his long-term durability -- and doing so especially after the right triceps strain he endured in March that derailed his start to the year. To that end, he arrives with experience behind the plate and at first base, where he will start occasionally. Rutschman will also DH to keep his bat in the lineup. But the majority of his starts -- perhaps as many as five per week -- are expected to come behind the plate.
What can we expect from Rutschman offensively?
A lauded blend of on-base prowess and slugging power, Rutschman immediately asserts himself as the most lethal bat in the Orioles’ lineup. A switch-hitter, he amassed a .282/.391/.488 slash line (.879 OPS) across 179 Minor League games. This season, during his rehab from the triceps strain, he was hitting .423 with a .484 on-base percentage for High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie before he was elevated to Triple-A Norfolk. There, Rutschman teed off for three homers in just 12 games prior to his callup.
Excellence from two folds. Rutschman has earned nothing short of wholesale praise from his pitchers for how he manages a game. Case in point, he was behind the plate when Grayson Rodriguez, the O’s No. 2 prospect, struck out 11 in just 5 1/3 innings on Tuesday. What’s more, Rutschman’s arm and pop time are potent. Throughout his Minor League career, he threw out 30 of 97 would-be basestealers -- a 31 percent rate that would sit in the top half of Major League catchers this season.
What number will he wear?
Rutschman will wear No. 35, the same number he sported in college and throughout the Minors until Norfolk, where he pivoted to No. 36. His number has meaning in Baltimore, famously belonging to Hall of Famer Mike Mussina.
Where will he hit in the lineup?
For his debut, Rutschman is behind the plate and batting sixth. During his tenure as Orioles skipper, Brandon Hyde has routinely started younger players down in the lineup and given them the chance to hit their way up.
Rutschman routinely hit second in Norfolk, which is where modern lineup logic suggests a team’s best hitter should be placed. His on-base and power ability profile perfectly there, particularly near the top of a lineup with little claimed real estate outside of the top four spots. Ultimately, he could fit snugly behind leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins at the top and in front of Ryan Mountcastle in the three spot, getting plenty of protection from those two. In time, Hyde could also elongate the lineup by sticking Austin Hays behind Mullins and Rutschman third, or Rutschman fifth behind Mountcastle and Trey Mancini.
How old is Rutschman?
Rutschman is 24. He was born on Feb. 6, 1998 -- on the same day as Babe Ruth, 103 years later.
Who are Rutschman’s player comparisons?
Many fans will instinctively think of Matt Wieters, the Orioles’ last switch-hitting, top catching prospect to debut to near-universal acclaim. The parallels are there. But Rutschman was always considered a more complete prospect than Wieters in scouting circles, with more power from both sides of the plate and more advanced defensive skills. There are no switch-hitting, power-hitting catchers in the current game, making Rutschman’s upside unique. Some scouts have thrown out an intriguing blend-comp to fill the void, likening Rutschman to Mark Teixeira.
Where is he from?
Rutschman grew up in Sherwood, Ore., a leafy suburb 20 miles southwest of Portland. He is the grandson of legendary area coach Al Rutschman, the only head coach in collegiate sports history to win national championships in both football and baseball (all at Division III Linfield University). He attended Oregon State University, where he set multiple College World Series records while leading the Beavers to the 2018 national championship. He is the latest in a growing list of impact big leaguers to spend their collegiate years in Corvallis, joining Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Conforto, Matthew Boyd and Nick Madrigal. He is the first big leaguer from Sherwood High.
How did the Orioles acquire him?
By virtue of their franchise-worst 115 losses in 2018, the Orioles earned the top overall pick in the 2019 Draft, their second in franchise history. They chose Rutschman, the consensus top pick, and signed him to a record $8.1 million bonus. Rutschman then became one of the faces of the Orioles rebuild, climbing through the Minors as they picked near the top of the Draft again in 2020 and ’21.