Adley Rutschman's best moments ... so far

May 21st, 2022

The future of Baltimore baseball has landed on Eutaw Street.

The Orioles are calling up top prospect Adley Rutschman for his Major League debut on Saturday, the club announced.

The move comes less than three years after Baltimore selected the switch-hitting catcher with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 Draft. Many baseball moments led to Rutschman’s spot at the top of his class, just as many more have him now headed to The Show.

Let’s revisit what got Rutschman here with a timeline of some of his best moments in baseball (and all of sports) … at least so far.

63-yard field goal

There’s a lot of baseball to come, we promise. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t address one of the most legendary moments of Rutschman’s career on any athletic field. As a senior at Sherwood High School in Oregon in 2015, Rutschman couldn’t play his regular football positions of running back or linebacker in the playoffs due to a sore neck. Limited to kicking duties, he still found ways to make his presence known.

With 2.9 seconds left in the first half of a second-round postseason matchup, Rutschman was called upon to attempt a 63-yard field goal that would give Sherwood a 38-7 lead. His previous high was 49 yards, but he had been good from as far out as 65 in pregame warmups. Rutschman -- the grandson of college football coach Ad Rutschman -- split the uprights and celebrated with teammates headed into the locker room for halftime. He went on to serve as a kicker, specializing in kickoffs, for the Oregon State football team as a freshman, but his most memorable moments as a Beaver came elsewhere.

Walk-off inside-the-parker in 2018

To his credit, Rutschman was a starter behind the plate at Oregon State from his freshman season in 2017, and while his numbers (.234/.322/.306 over 61 games) paled in comparison to what was to come, his performance did set the stage for what was to come.

You could tell 2018 was going to be a truly special season on April 3 against Nevada. Already 3-for-3 with two walks on the day, Rutschman stepped to plate from the right side in the 10th inning of a 7-7 game in Corvallis and drove an 0-1 pitch to center that just eluded the outfielder’s glove. As the ball reached the fence, the Beavers backstop sped around the bases before sliding headfirst into home for a walk-off inside-the-park home run. The four-hit performance would be a career-high and pushed his season average to .426.

2018 College World Series

The 2018 season was a special one, indeed, capped in the best way possible for Rutschman and his fellow Beavers. Oregon State breezed through the regional and super regional, winning all five games by a combined score of 49-8, before suffering a misstep with an 8-6 loss against North Carolina. They followed that up with wins against UNC and Mississippi State (twice) to set up a championship round against Arkansas. After dropping Game 1 4-1, the Beavers won the remaining two contests, concluding with a trophy-raising 5-0 victory in Game 3. Rutschman framed a called low-and-outside strike three from Kevin Abel (who pitched all nine innings) to start the celebrations, signaling just how important he was as a defender.

The switch-hitting backstop was named Most Outstanding Player after breaking a CWS record with 17 hits over eight games. Three of them came in that Game 3 win over the Razorbacks, pushing his season average to .408, fifth-best in Division I. It was Oregon State’s third-ever NCAA title and first since 2007 when Rutschman was only 9 years old.

2019 awards

If 2018 was defined by team success for Rutschman, his junior campaign had more of an individual tinge to it. (Not that he would have had it that way after Oregon State was bounced in the regional.) The switch-hitter managed to improve his offensive stats across the board in 2019, finishing with a .411/.575/.751 line, 17 homers and twice as many walks (76) as strikeouts (38) through 57 games. He led Division I in walks, OBP and OPS (1.326), all while providing impressive defense at the dish. 

That made him a shoo-in for the Buster Posey Award, handed out to Division I’s top catcher. But his performance was too good to just be honored among backstops. Rutschman also won the 2019 Golden Spikes Award (top amateur player in the country) and Dick Howser Trophy (best collegiate baseball player), giving him a full trophy shelf in his last year on campus.

No. 1 overall pick

The 2019 Draft wasn’t Rutschman’s first. The Pacific Northwest star was selected in the 40th round by the Mariners in 2016 but never seemed much of a threat to sign. Three years later was a much different story. Rutschman’s prolific offensive performance at a premium position for two years running made him MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 Draft prospect in the 2019 class, just ahead of Bobby Witt Jr. and Andrew Vaughn. 

The Orioles -- in their first Draft class under Mike Elias, who was hired in November 2018 -- weren’t about to mess up what looked like a slam dunk and selected Rutschman No. 1 overall. He became the first catcher to go in the first spot since Joe Mauer in 2001 and signed for a then-record $8.1 million bonus (a standard beaten by Spencer Torkelson one year later).

Homers in pro debut

Draft-year Minor League performance is typically seen as gravy. Guys are coming off long springs and may be tiring at the end of the summer. But was it any surprise that Rutschman poured on said gravy immediately in pro ball?

The catcher was assigned to the Gulf Coast League out of the gate and debuted for the O’s affiliate on July 20, a little later than expected due to a bout of mononucleosis. He was retired in his first two professional at-bats but showed no intent on opening his career 0-for-3 come the sixth inning. Rutschman laced a pitch from Pirates right-hander Domingo Gonzalez down the line in right that easily cleared the fence and stayed just fair for both his first pro hit and home run.

“I was just hoping to get a couple hits today, maybe and get back in the swing of things," Rutschman told "But nothing beats a home run.”

Five-hit sendoff in Aberdeen

Rutschman lasted only five games in the GCL before moving up to then-Class A Short Season Aberdeen on July 27. His stay there didn’t last a month either. Rutschman carried a nine-game hitting streak into an Aug. 19 game against Vermont and proved in one night that he was too good already for the New York-Penn League. He finished 5-for-5 with a homer (his second of the season), a triple and four RBIs as the IronBirds designated hitter. The five knocks remain a career high. One day later, he was promoted to Delmarva for his full-season debut.

Return to play, return to dominance

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequently canceled Minor League season in 2020 robbed us of a chance to see Rutschman and many other top prospects mine their crafts. After spending time at Baltimore’s alternate site for much of that summer, Rutschman was assigned to Double-A Bowie to begin 2021, his first true full Minor League campaign, and he didn’t look rusty whatsoever.

The backstop began his age-23 season with a .293/.465/.573 line, six homers, three doubles and a 20/22 K/BB ratio through 22 games in May for the Baysox. Those 22 free passes led all Double-A hitters for the first month of the 2021 season, while his 1.038 OPS placed sixth among that group.

2021 Futures Game

The All-Star Futures Game is meant to put the best prospects on display in a Major League ballpark. You can imagine Rutschman -- then MLB Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect -- had his name written in ink on the initial American League roster.

Indeed, the Orioles farmhand batted cleanup and started at catcher for the AL side at Coors Field. He flew out to left in his first plate appearance against Max Meyer in the second inning and walked on four pitches against Quinn Priester in the fourth. Rutschman was replaced by Bo Naylor before the bottom of the fourth after catching Cole Winn, Shane Baz, Cole Ragans and Brayan Bello to begin the exhibition. 

Because of the 2020 cancelation and his early callup this year, last year’s Futures Game in Denver is likely to be the only of Rutschman’s career.

Turning to the Tides

Rutschman made his Triple-A Norfolk debut on Aug. 10, 2021 -- almost exactly one month after the July 11 Futures Game -- and once again showed no issues adjusting to a new level. He picked up hits in 16 of his first 18 games with the Orioles’ top Minor League affiliate and hit .368/.442/.500 with one homer and six doubles over that time. He cooled off only slightly after that and finished with a .312/.405/.490 line over 185 plate appearances with the Tides.

At a time when many rookies this season have struggled in their first tastes of the Majors, it’s worth remembering Rutschman’s strong starts wherever he’s played in the Minors, giving hope that the 24-year-old can hit the ground running in The Show.

The next one

A right triceps injury suffered in Spring Training was likely the only thing holding Rutschman back from joining Baltimore on Opening Day. Following stints with Aberdeen, Bowie and Norfolk, the moment has finally come. Adley Rutschman is a Major Leaguer.