Adley Rutschman exudes confidence that could resonate throughout the Baltimore Orioles organization for years to come.
While he didn’t make any promises, Rutschman certainly did not back down from the lofty expectations surrounding him as the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s Major League Baseball amateur draft.
“The most important thing for me is focusing on the process and continuing to improve myself and controlling what I can control,” Rutschman said during a conference call with reporters. “That’s always been the biggest part of my motto for me as a baseball player to keep me on track.”
While the Orioles reportedly did some posturing with the top pick, general manager Mike Elias appeared confident his team made the right pick. Rutschman was the consensus No. 1 player in the draft and immediately gives the Orioles some star power.
Rutschman joins pitcher Ben McDonald (1989) as the franchise’s sole No. 1 overall picks since moving to Baltimore in 1954. Rutschman is also the first catcher selected No. 1 overall since Joe Mauer in 2001 by the Minnesota Twins.
“It’s hard to know where to start with Adley Rutschman,” Elias said. “He’s a switch-hitting catcher with power plus he can hit from both sides with an unbelievable statistical resume. He’s a team leader on and off the field. He’s everything you want, and he plays a premium defensive position with athleticism that gives him versatility to play elsewhere as needed. Adley is a future fixture for this organization.”
Rutschman, 21, hit .411 (76-for-185) with 10 doubles, 17 home runs, 57 runs, 58 RBI, and 76 walks in 57 games this past season as a junior. He led NCAA Division I players with a .575 on-base percentage and 76 walks. He is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the top amateur ballplayer every year.
Rutschman earned the following honors in the Pac-12 in 2019: Player of the Year, Co-Defensive Player of the Year, first-team all conference and all-academic honorable mention. He was also named the 2019 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year and a Collegiate Baseball first-team All-American.
Rutschman also bring a new dynamic to the Orioles’ catching situation.
“I feel like, as a catcher, I work hard and I feel like being able to control a staff is a huge part of being a catcher, and being able to adapt to different pitching personalities and finding out what each one of their strengths is,” Rutschman said. “I want them each to succeed. I feel like that’s very important, something I can control every day I come to the diamond.”
Now, the Orioles just have to sign Rutschman. The slot amount for the No. 1 overall pick is $8.4 million.
Elias hopes to move quickly with a deal.
“I’m not anticipating a lot of drama there hopefully,” Elias said. “But it’s still a process that we have to go through. That will obviously dictate where and when he starts. But I also need to sit down with him and his group and our player development people and get a sense of where he’s at after the Oregon State season, then set forth some goal for this season.”
The next question will be where Rutschman begins his career. There was early speculation he could start at Low-A Delmarva with the sense that he could move quickly through the system.
When asked what level he could play right away, Rutschman said: “I really don’t know that, but I’m excited to find out and be part of the organization. I trust the front office in Baltimore and I’m sure they’re going to make a great decision for me.”
The Orioles also selected high school shortstop Gunnar Henderson from John T. Morgan Academy in Selma, Ala., in the second round (42nd overall). Henderson, a left-handed hitter, was rated the 27th-best prospect in the draft by MLB Pipeline.
“Gunnar Henderson is very athletic and he can run,” Elias said. “He’s a big guy, so there exists a possibility that he grows and moves to third base. But the important thing is we think his profile still holds up at third. He’s got plus power and he hits well. It’s still a third base profile, but if he ends up staying at shortstop, that would be icing on the cake.”
The Orioles took Stanford center fielder Kyle Stowers with the 71st overall pick. He is batting .305/.371/.519 with eight homers and 38 RBIs this past season.
“He really came on the scene with a huge Cape Cod League last summer,” Elias said. “In terms of his defensive home, we feel the bat will move around to other defensive spots if he’s not playing center field. It’s a strong profile in center or somewhere else.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy of USA Baseball