Rutschman, Rodriguez top MLB rankings

August 19th, 2021

ST. PETERSBURG -- After improving for years, the Orioles’ farm system has hit a new milestone: Per MLB Pipeline’s new midseason rankings, the game’s best position player and pitching prospect both belong to Baltimore.

Adley Rutschman and right-hander Grayson Rodriguez claim those spots in Pipeline’s updated rankings, released Wednesday, with Rutschman retaining his place as the game’s top overall prospect. Rodriguez slides in at No. 8, ranking ahead of Rangers righty Jack Leiter (No. 12 overall) and Rays righty Shane Baz (No. 20). All told, the Orioles are well represented in Pipeline’s new rankings, with five Top 100 prospects: Rutschman, Rodriguez, No. 78 left-hander D.L. Hall, No. 80 shortstop Gunnar Henderson and No. 83 outfielder Colton Cowser.

It’s just the second time since began compiling rankings in 2004 that the same team has boasted the game’s top position player and pitching prospect simultaneously. The only other organization to do so was the White Sox in mid-2017, with Yoán Moncada at No. 1 and Michael Kopech at No. 12.

“We just need to get more talented in the entire organization, and we have the last couple years, so that’s exciting,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We’ve invested a lot of time and money into our player development system and improving that, as well as Latin America and being more involved over there. We are putting a lot of resources into that and building this from the ground up. Right now we’re taking a hit at the big league level, because we haven’t gotten here yet really.

"You want to see our prospects do well, you want to see our organization grow. That’s fantastic.”

There is considerable shakeup to the Orioles’ Top 30 team list as well. New additions include ’21 first-round pick Cowser at No. 5, second-rounder Connor Norby at No. 9 and competitive balance pick Reed Trimble at No. 21. The biggest risers are No. 11 outfielder Kyle Stowers (from No. 22) and No. 20 shortstop Joseph Ortiz (from No. 29). Right-hander Kyle Bradish also jumps into the Top 10 at No. 8, while former top prospect Yusniel Diaz falls out, to No. 12. 

The Orioles’ full list can be found here.

For Rutschman and Rodriguez, the new rankings come on the heels of dominant summers spent across the O’s system. Rutschman, who hit his first Triple-A homer on Wednesday, hit 18 homers with a .901 OPS in 80 games at Double-A Bowie before his promotion to Norfolk last week. Rodriguez jelled with him at Bowie, going 5-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 13 starts at the level after pitching to a 1.54 ERA in five starts at High-A Aberdeen. The Orioles’ first-round pick in 2018, Rodriguez doesn’t turn 22 until November and sports a near triple-digit fastball and two distinct breaking balls. Rodriguez is Baltimore's highest-ranked pitching prospect since Dylan Bundy was No. 2 in 2013.

Back in action

Sidelined for one game due to a sore left calf, returned to the Orioles' lineup for Thursday’s matinee finale against the Rays as the team tried to snap its 14-game losing streak. Mancini first injured the calf late in Tuesday’s loss, fouling two pitches off his left foot and calf before doubling. Mancini was lifted for a pinch-runner and tested the calf pregame Wednesday, before deciding to give it a day to heal.

“If we were in a pennant race he’d have been in the lineup [yesterday],” Hyde said. “With our situation, I want him to play healthy and don’t want him to risk anything where he might miss a week because I pushed him out there. With our record, that felt like the right thing to do.”

It’s been a difficult month at the plate for Mancini, who is hitting .173 with one homer in 13 games in August. He’s batting .253 with 20 homers and a .775 OPS overall in his first season back from battling colon cancer.