Adley Rutschman arrived in the big leagues on May 21 and quickly lived up to the hype, as the 24-year-old switch-hitting catcher had a tremendous rookie season. In fact, it was one of the best in Orioles history.
However, it wasn’t quite enough for Rutschman to overtake Mariners phenom Julio Rodríguez and win this year’s American League Rookie of the Year Award.
Rutschman finished as the runner-up to Rodríguez for AL Rookie of the Year, which was awarded to the Seattle outfielder on MLB Network on Monday night. Rodríguez received 29 of the 30 first-place votes and finished with 148 points, while Rutschman had one first-place vote and 68 points from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballots.
Rutschman also received 18 second-place votes and nine third-place votes. Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan, the other finalist, finished third with 44 points (10 second-place votes and 14 third-place votes).
For Rutschman, a runner-up finish to Rodríguez is still an impressive way to cap his first year in MLB. Especially after the backstop’s arrival was delayed due to a right triceps strain he sustained during Spring Training.
Six weeks after Opening Day, Rutschman was healthy and ready, having proved so during a final 20-game stint in the Minors. He debuted on May 21, going 1-for-3 with a triple in the Orioles’ 6-1 loss to the Rays at Camden Yards. At the time, he was also the No. 1 prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline.
Rutschman, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Oregon State, went on to slash .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs in 113 games. His 35 doubles broke Baltimore’s rookie record previously set by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. (32 in 1982) and were the most hit by an O’s catcher in a season, a mark previously held by Javy Lopez (33 in 2004).
“The season as a whole, just the ups and downs that come with it and thinking about the individual games and having time to reflect now, having the season be done for a while, you just really appreciate what it was and just the memories you made along the way with the guys,” Rutschman said on the MLB Network broadcast. “Obviously, the debut was special. But just the season as a whole was an unbelievable experience.”
Rutschman matched Rodríguez with a 5.3 fWAR, tied for best among all MLB rookies. He also provided the Orioles with exceptional defense behind the plate. Rutschman had 18 defensive runs saved (second among MLB catchers behind only the Yankees’ Jose Trevino) and was graded by FanGraphs as the second-best pitch-framer this season, tied with Texas’ Jonah Heim and behind only Trevino.
At last week’s General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas, Baltimore GM Mike Elias discussed how difficult it is to land a franchise catcher to build around -- and how glad he is the O’s now have just that in Rutschman.
“I recommend getting one if you can. They’re kind of hard to find,” Elias said. “I think the quantifiable, on-field production was a huge portion of it, both handling the pitching staff and then the offensive numbers he put up. But certainly, talking to people in the clubhouse and seeing him operate, the addition from a clubhouse vibe and attitude of the team standpoint was not insignificant as well.
“We’re thrilled to have him, very proud of him, and I think we’re lucky to have him.”