Adley Rutschman pauses for a few seconds, smiles, and then offers a contemplative response about what it means to be one of the most prized prospects in the history of the Baltimore Orioles.
Rutschman does not appear to be weighed down by the lofty expectations surrounding him, and he’s managed to stay focused on becoming a better baseball player.
That’s a scary thought for those competing against the Orioles in the future.
“I try to keep everything in perspective and just understand how blessed I am as an individual to be able to play this game and to be able to play for fans and friends and family who support me in a loving way,” Rutschman said. “So I think that always allows me to enjoy every single day and enjoy the process and the grind of being able to play baseball and do something I love.”
Rutschman, 23, was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, but his rise through the minor-league system has been somewhat sidetracked by COVID-19, which shut down sports across the globe last year. He will make his debut with Double-A Bowie May 4 when the Baysox visit Altoona for their regular-season opener.
Overall, Rutschman has played in 37 professional games at Gulf Coast, Aberdeen, and Delmarva, slashing a combined .254/.351/.423 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He’s shown his prowess behind the plate while working with the club’s prized pitching prospects.
Bowie manager Buck Britton, brother of former Orioles closer Zack Britton, has been impressed by Rutschman’s work ethic.
“There’s a lot of pressure on those guys, obviously,” Britton said of highly-touted prospects like Rutschman. “I think Adley knows that. This is a guy who works harder than anybody I’ve seen, especially somebody who’s been picked that high. A lot of times you’ve got to tell Adley to pump the brakes a little bit and slow him down. But this guy’s a worker and he’s just a natural-born leader. And I’m really excited to see him go through a season.”
Rutschman is the No. 2 overall prospect in MLB behind Wander Franco, a shortstop in the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization, according to MLB Pipeline. Rutschman was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2019 MLB Draft after batting .352 with 72 extra-base hits, 174 RBIs, and a 1.032 OPS during 185 games at Oregon State from 2017-2019.
As for now, Rutschman is focused on being the best teammate possible at Bowie.
“I think more than anything, baseball is bigger than just a game,” Rutschman. “I think people value how you treat them more than how good a baseball player you are in the long run, and that’s something I try to keep in mind every single day.
He’s also focusing on getting better each and every day with the Baysox.
“… There’s always going to be expectations and for me, I just have to be able to control what I can control, and other people’s expectations don’t really fall into that category,” Rutschman said. “That’s kind of how I’ve always treated it. It seems to have worked out so far. I know that if I continue to set goals and expectations for myself that everything else should just fall in line.”
Britton shares the excitement of Orioles fans to see Rutschman perform. There should be a buzz surrounding Prince George’s Stadium when the Baysox open their home schedule May 11 against Reading.
“I had a chance to see him at the alternate site [last summer],” Britton said. “Obviously, his ability jumps off the chart, both offensively and behind the plate, so I think it’s just a matter of kind of getting him into games, into the professional atmosphere because he didn’t play much after being drafted and obviously he didn’t play any games per se last year. I’m excited to see this guy when the lights go on, but he’s got a chance to be a really, really exciting player for the Orioles for a long time.”
Orioles rookie left-hander Bruce Zimmermann was optioned to the alternate site prior to the club’s May 3 game in Seattle.
Zimmermann is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in six starts. He has not managed to pitch into the sixth inning in any of his last three appearances.
The move underscores how the Orioles are managing their young pitching prospects. Last month, Dean Kremer was sent to the alternate training site because the team had a rare two-off-day week looming.
In a corresponding move, reliever Isaac Mattson was promoted to the major-league club.
Photo Credit: Eric Nalpas/Baltimore Orioles