Adley Rutschman continues his march toward his Orioles debut.
The game’s consensus No. 1 prospect was recently sent from Double-A Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk, his last stop before playing in the major leagues. Rutschman earned the promotion after batting .271/.392/.508 with 16 doubles, 18 homers and 55 RBIs in 80 games with the Baysox.
Rutschman has gotten off to a hot start with the Tides, going 6-for-13 (.462) with four RBIs in his first three games.
“I think you’ve got to celebrate all the small victories, and getting promoted is obviously a huge step,” Rutschman said. “Definitely a great experience and I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in right now. So, very happy to be here and to be a step away.”
Rutschman has been impressive throughout his climb in the Orioles’ minor league system. In 2019, he played in 37 professional games with Gulf Coast, Aberdeen and Delmarva, slashing a combined .254/.351/.423 with four home runs and 26 RBIs. He’s shown prowess behind the plate working with the club’s prized pitching prospects.
“There’s a lot of pressure on those guys, obviously,” Bowie manager Buck Britton said of highly-touted prospects earlier this year. “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.”
Rutschman has been stout with his bat and has also developed a strong rapport with young pitchers. He keeps a simple approach to the game and it’s paying dividends.
Earlier this season, he was selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game in Denver. He flew out to the left field in the second inning before earning a walk in the fourth.
“I think just trying to create a big emphasis on strike-zone discipline and swinging at pitches in the zone and pitches I can do damage on,” Rutschman said of his priorities as a hitter this year. “So, that’s been a big emphasis for me and I think it’s led to pretty good results so far. I’m going to try and continue to improve upon that.”
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 in 185 games at Oregon State from 2017-2019. He has embraced the lofty expectations that surround him and has impressed his teammates with his humility.
“I think he’s a pro on and off the field,” said Norfolk pitcher Mike Baumann, who was part of a battery with Rutschman at Bowie as well. “He handles himself like a big leaguer. He’s got the right mindset. He’s going to make the guys around him better. I think that’s what makes him as good as he is.”
When he eventually reaches the majors, Rutschman is expected to be a fixture in the Orioles’ lineup for the long term. However, Rutschman is not worried about that timeline. He’s just focused on becoming a better player.
“I mean, honestly, I don’t really know my schedule,” Rutschman said. “Kind of to be [determined] right now. I trust that the Orioles have a plan for me, and they’ve had a plan for me all year. So I trust whatever they decide to do. It’s worked out so far and I’m very fortunate to be a part of this organization. So, I know they have a plan and are just looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.”
Matt Blood, the Orioles’ director of player development, said the team is taking its time with Rutschman. Blood has been impressed with Rutschman’s approach to the game, his attention to detail and ability to produce at each level of the minors.
“There’s no timeline,” Blood said. “As crazy as this may sound, it’s still his first full professional season. Allowing him to go through that is really the most important thing for him to experience — the ups and downs of the season.”
For now, Rutschman is concerned about helping Norfolk win games. The Tides are 34-51 this season as they’ve dealt with a constant shuffling of pitchers with the Orioles, who have dealt with several injuries to bullpen arms of late.
It will be intriguing to see what impact Rutschman will have on the Tides.
“I’m just looking forward to experiencing a new level, new challenges and being a part of a new team in a new place,” Rutschman said. “And, there is definitely some uncomfortability that comes with new situations and new settings, but it’s all part of the process and all part of the learning experience.”
Photo Credit: Steven Goldburg