Is Rutschman the best No. 1 since Harper?

Oregon State catcher selected first overall in MLB Draft by Orioles

June 4th, 2019

Adley Rutschman has everything scouts want in a catcher. He's a switch-hitter who's a monster at the plate, capable of hitting for plenty of average and power while drawing a ton of walks. Behind it, he has a strong arm, impressive receiving and blocking skills -- plus leadership ability off the charts.

The Most Outstanding Player at the 2018 College World Series, where he led Oregon State to its third national title, Rutschman has encored by batting .419/.580/.765 with 17 homers as a junior entering NCAA tournament play. He leads Division I in on-base percentage, OPS (1.345) and walks (73).

Rutschman is not just the best catching prospect in the 2019 Draft or in the last decade. When MLB Pipeline asked veteran scouts to identify the top amateur backstops (based on how he was regarded at the time) since MLB went to a single Draft format in 1987, the consensus pointed to Rutschman. Buster Posey (No. 5 overall, Giants, 2008) and Joe Mauer (No. 1 overall, Twins, 2001) also drew support.

"Rutschman is at the top for me," a scouting executive with a National League team said. "The only college catcher who compares to him is Buster Posey, and Rutschman has more power than we thought Buster had and I think this kid is a better catcher than Buster.

"Joe Mauer is the best high school catcher I've even seen. You rarely see a catcher as athletic as Joe Mauer. But Rutschman is such a good offensive player. If he was a first baseman, he's still be a terrific prospect. He might be Mark Teixeira."

With Rutschman going No. 1 overall to the Orioles to open the 2019 MLB Draft on Monday, we asked the same scouts to put him in perspective with the best top selections in the unified Draft era. He's the best prospect taken with the first choice since Bryce Harper at the start of this decade:

1. Alex Rodriguez, SS, Westminster Christian Academy, Miami (Mariners, 1993)
The gold standard of Draft prospects was even better on the field than anyone could have imagined.

2. Bryce Harper, OF, JC of Southern Nevada (Nationals, 2010)
The best power prospect in Draft history, he led national juco players with 31 homers -- while using wood bats as a 17-year-old.

3. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, San Diego State (Nationals, 2009)
Regarded as the top Draft pitching prospect and the most pre-ordained No. 1 pick ever, he set a record that may never be broken by landing $15,107,104 in guaranteed money.

4. Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Archbishop Moeller HS, Cincinnati (Mariners, 1987)
Meddling Mariners owner George Argyros wanted right-hander Mike Harkey, but his front office sold him on the first No. 1 overall pick to make the Hall of Fame.

5. Ben McDonald, RHP, Louisiana State (Orioles, 1989)
Strasburg before Strasburg, he was a lock No. 1 overall choice and signed a then-stunning $849,300 big league contract.

6. David Price, LHP, Vanderbilt (Devil Rays, 2007)
Fourteen months after he signed, Price helped pitch a formerly hapless franchise into the World Series.

7. Adley Rutchsman, C, Oregon State
Though Harper caught at Southern Nevada, Rutschman is the first full-fledged catcher to go No. 1 overall since Mauer in 2001.

8. Brien Taylor, LHP, East Carteret HS, Beaufort, N.C. (Yankees, 1991)
An off-field fight wrecked his shoulder and kept him from reaching the Majors, but many scouts still say he's the best southpaw pitching prospect ever.

9. Josh Hamilton, OF, Athens Drive HS, Raleigh, N.C. (Devil Rays, 1999)
Though his mid-90s fastball and athleticism would have made him an early first-rounder as a lefty pitcher, teams coveted his five-tool potential as an outfielder even more.

10. Chipper Jones, SS, The Bolles School, Jacksonville, Fla. (Braves, 1990)
Todd Van Poppel was the consensus No. 1 talent in 1990, but Jones went No. 1 as a switch-hitting shortstop with power and speed.