Meet the 19-year-old phenom representing O's in Futures Game

July 10th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- The 2024 Orioles will soon make All-Star history by sending a trio of position players -- catcher Adley Rutschman, shortstop Gunnar Henderson and third baseman Jordan Westburg -- in their third big league season or earlier to the same Midsummer Classic. No MLB team had done that.

Before Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, Henderson will be in the national spotlight at another marquee event. The 23-year-old is set to participate in Monday’s T-Mobile Home Run Derby.

And even earlier than that, one of the faces of Baltimore’s next wave of young talent will get his time in the All-Star limelight.

(the O’s No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 overall) will be participating in the All-Star Futures Game, set for Saturday at 4 p.m. ET (MLB Network, MLB.TV,, MLB app). The event showcases top prospects who represent the brightest stars of tomorrow.

Rutschman (2021) and Henderson (‘22) are Futures Game alums. In ‘23, infielder Jackson Holliday (the No. 1 overall prospect in MLB) and outfielder Heston Kjerstad represented the Orioles in the event.

Now, the stage will belong to Basallo, a 19-year-old catcher/first baseman who signed out of the Dominican Republic in January 2021 and has since quickly ascended Baltimore’s Minor League system.

Basallo reached Double-A Bowie for the first time last September, playing four games for the Baysox about a month after his 19th birthday. He’s back at that level this year, and he’s put up impressive numbers despite a bit of a slow start (a .716 OPS in 21 April games).

Through 73 games this season, the left-handed-hitting Basallo is slashing .273/.337/.453 with 14 doubles, 12 home runs and 38 RBIs. His monthly OPS climbed from April to May (.791) to June (.894).

“Just really cool to see a young man battle through the nightly challenges of being really young and playing at a high level of professional baseball,” said Anthony Villa, the Orioles’ director of player development.

Not many teenagers play at the Triple-A level, but it’s not unprecedented. Last year, Holliday reached Triple-A Norfolk and had an 18-game stint with the Tides at the end of the season.

What does Basallo need to do to reach Triple-A either before his 20th birthday (Aug. 13) or shortly after?

“More reps, certainly. But we’re always wanting to see guys continue to improve,” Villa said. “Sam’s ability to control the strike zone and draw walks is an asset where he can continue to improve. Continuing to develop defensively behind the plate, as well as log some innings at first base.”

Basallo’s ability to contribute at first base -- as well as to be a potent option at designated hitter -- is why he and Rutschman should coexist on the Orioles’ roster down the line. Sure, they’re both primary catchers, but they could both be in the same lineup on many nights in the future.

Rutschman has made 56 starts at catcher and 28 at DH for Baltimore in 2024. At Bowie, Basallo has 28 at catcher, 21 at DH and 20 at first, the latter being a position where the 6-foot-4 youngster continues to make strides.

Villa believes first base could be a “very real option” for Basallo in the big leagues.

“He’s still so young, he’s super athletic, he’s a quick learner,” Villa said. “So we’re wanting to make sure he’s getting innings over there, being exposed to it, because the bat is showing that it’s pretty impressive and it could help the team, and we want to make sure defensively he has options to help the team as well.”

All of Basallo’s impressive tools will be on display Saturday at the All-Star Futures Game, where he’ll have his opportunity to show that more talented future stars are coming through the vaunted O’s Minor League pipeline.