Orioles can jumpstart rebuild by drafting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles can jumpstart rebuild by drafting Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman

Photo credit: Steven Branscombe - USA Today Sports

I’ve never seen Adley Rutschman play, but I think the Orioles should make him the No. 1 choice in next month’s draft. By virtue of their 115 losses in 2018, they can pick the best amateur player, and that’s Rutschman.

If you don’t know about him, you’ll be learning a lot in the weeks before the June 3rd draft.

As the losses piled up last season, speculation began that the Orioles would choose Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. But since general manager Mike Elias, a master scout, took over, talk about Rutschman has become more prominent.

Rutschman is a 6-feet-2, 216-pound catcher from Oregon State. As a junior, he has video-game numbers. In his first 46 games, Rutschman is hitting .431 with a .581 on-base percentage, and a .791 slugging average for an OPS of 1.372.

In the counting stats, Rutschman has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs. He’s walked nearly twice as often as he’s struck out (60 walks, 31 strikeouts).

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A scout for another major league team who has watched Rutschman play says he’s an easy choice as the No. 1 pick.

“He has monster numbers, and he can defend, and he switch-hits,” the scout said. “His resume is ridiculous. He’s not quite in the stratosphere of Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg-like, no doubt No. 1 pick, but he’s not far off in terms of resume, track record, history, accomplishments, talent. He checks an awful lot of boxes.”

Although Elias could still look at Witt or perhaps Cal first baseman Andrew Vaughn, the Orioles could a solidify a key position for years if they choose Rutschman.

The scout says that Rutschman compares favorably with two other outstanding college catchers, Jason Varitek, the longtime Boston Red Sox catcher, and former Oriole Matt Wieters.

Wieters was a heavily hyped prospect when the Orioles drafted him with the fifth overall selection in 2007.

Less than two years after the draft, Wieters was in the major leagues and a key contributor in helping to end 14 seasons of losing baseball in 2012.

A vastly underappreciated player, Wieters was compared with Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and the New York Yankees’ Jorge Posada.

While he never turned out to be “Mauer with power,” Wieters gave the Orioles credibility and helped nurture a starting staff that featured Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chin, Miguel Gonzalez, Joe Saunders and a developing Chris Tillman to a playoff berth in 2012.

Rutschman could gve the Orioles that same credibility as they build with young pitchers such as D.L. Hall, Blaine Knight, Grayson Rodriguez and others who Elias might select in this draft.

Catchers aren’t usually the marquee player on a team. Wieters was surrounded by J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis, but did the thinking for a developing and sometimes unstable pitching staff.

More important, catchers who are skilled offensively and defensively are incredibly rare. The argument could be made that the Orioles shouldn’t pick a player who might play “only” 120 games per season, but Wieters proved otherwise

In Wieters’ prime seasons, 2011 and 2012, he had a combined WAR (Wins over Replacement) of 9.3, higher than Jones’ 7.4. He also won the Gold Glove in both of those seasons.

Tommy John surgery limited him to 101 games in 2014 and 2015, but he was still a solid player in the 2016 playoff run.

If the Orioles could get a catcher who’s better, perhaps far better than Wieters with their first pick, they should take him.

Baseball fans who closely follow the NFL and NBA drafts know much more about the top picks than they do about top amateur baseball players.

“Baseball’s place in the culture is not as big as it used to be,” the scout said. “Otherwise, I think we’d be making a much bigger deal out of Adley Rutschman.”

Avid football fans who watch 12 hours of college football each Saturday can claim to be intimately familiar with Kyler Murray, the top pick of the Arizona Cardinals in last month’s draft, who shunned the Oakland Athletics for the NFL.

Murray, an exciting quarterback prospect, was a sexy pick, and he’ll likely play immediately. As good as Rutschman is, he still may need a year or two in the minors.

Rutschman could be the centerpiece of Elias’ rebuild, and if the Orioles select him next month, the team’s new era will truly be under way.

70 Comments

70 Comments

  1. PC in OC

    May 10, 2019 at 7:27 am

    We need a slick fielding shortstop, who can HIT, more then a catcher.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 7:37 am

      The Orioles need both, and many more players in order to contend, PC.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      May 10, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Agree. They already do have at least 3 other really good SS prospects in the system;

      – Cadyn Grenier
      – Adam Hall, and
      – Mason McCoy

      It is a position of strength already in the system..

      • Orial

        May 10, 2019 at 8:32 am

        At this point it’s not the position that’s important it’s “the best player available”.

  2. geevee3

    May 10, 2019 at 7:34 am

    We need the best possible athlete and possible impact player.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 7:38 am

      And that’s what I think Rutschman is, geevee.

      • geevee3

        May 10, 2019 at 7:54 am

        I agree. Would like to see a comparison to Weiters numbers prior to draft.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 8:58 am

      As a junior, Wieters hit .358 with 10 homers, 59 RBIs and a 1.072 at Georgia Tech. Unlike Rutschman, he also pitched regularly in college.

  3. Fareastern89

    May 10, 2019 at 7:38 am

    Rich — Do you see a real possibility that the O’s might select a lesser talent in the first round to pay a below-slot bonus, and then spend more on their picks in later rounds? (The classic comparison is Houston’s selection of Correa, of course.) I think fans would understandably be upset by such a move, but it is the sort of coldly rational thing Elias might do — and that’s not a knock on his style.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 7:50 am

      It’s certainly possible, Fareastern. Elias is hard to predict.

      • whiterose

        May 10, 2019 at 12:19 pm

        If they pick anyone but Rutschman for slot reasons, that will be a signal, true or not, that Elias is not serious about the rebuild.
        The air will be released from hopeful fans.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      May 10, 2019 at 8:14 am

      That is a very interesting thought.. if Rutschman chooses Boras as his agent, that would be a huge red flag and a sign to stay away from him..but is going to be a really hard talent to pass up–he is the total package.

      • whiterose

        May 10, 2019 at 12:21 pm

        Wieters had Boras too

      • Jbigle1

        May 10, 2019 at 7:47 pm

        Boras May be an issue down the line if you want an extension but that’s not reallly a draft day consideration. Rutschman is a college junior whose stock will never be higher. Another season of College baseball is nothing but downside for him. Unless he really did not want to be a Baltimore Oriole that point is moot. A guy like Witt could potentially be harder to sign as he could go to College for 3 years or a JUCO and come out next year. Where as Rutschman has absolutely nothing to gain by going back to OSU.

        • Rich Dubroff

          May 10, 2019 at 10:09 pm

          Jbigle, Scott Boras will not be representing Rutschman. It’s Beverly Hills Sports Council.

          • Jbigle1

            May 11, 2019 at 11:25 am

            I see. thanks for the info. That blanket statement remains true though. Doesn’t matter who reps the guy on draft day.
            You draft solely because of talent.

  4. Bhoffman1

    May 10, 2019 at 7:57 am

    If we draft him which I agree then what happens to Chance Sisco who when he finally comes up continues his torrid hitting he exhibited this spring and now finally at Norfolk. I realize he’s not the greatest defense catcher but Mountcastle is the DH so no position for Sisco anymore

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 8:22 am

      Bruce, the Orioles need a catcher for this year and probably next year, so if Sisco is good enough, he would play then, and could be a backup thereafter, or he’s traded or he’s moved to another position.

      All fans, not just you, need to realize that the players in the majors or high minors are irrelevant to the team’s draft strategy.

      They need a continuing stream of players.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      May 10, 2019 at 8:24 am

      2 things:

      – I believe he was an infielder in HS before they converted him to a catcher

      – he would likely be a decent trade candidate to someone else where they could get something back for him.

  5. Schwarzstop

    May 10, 2019 at 7:58 am

    If you have the Sports Package on Dish, the PAC 12 Network Channel 406-01 is broadcasting Oregon State @ Oregon tonight at 10:00, tomorrow @ 5:00 PM, and Sunday @ 3:00 PM.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 8:24 am

      I don’t have Dish, just the sports package on Xfinity, but fans who are at home will appreciate your help here, SS.

  6. In The Triangle

    May 10, 2019 at 8:18 am

    So many catchers wear out. So many catchers play only 100 games a season. So many teams have an outstanding shortstop.

    There were eight catchers drafted in the first round of the 2008 draft. That includes Weiters and Josh Donaldson. Donaldson worked out okay but he only caught 10 games. Others were d’Arnaud (400 games in seven seasons) and Arencibia done by 2015.

    Five catchers have been drafted fist overall. Mauer was the only one to catch in the majors.

    We don’t need major league ready talent for three years. Until then, all we need in the majors is trade bait. This seems like a good time in the rebuilding process to take a really good high schooler.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Triangle, the scout I talked to said that Rutschman compares favorably with Jason Varitek and he caught more than 100 games a season in his age 35-37 seasons.

  7. Orial

    May 10, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Rich explain the allotment money. It was earlier asked that if Rutchsman were to pick Boras as his agent he might be priced out of the O’s/Elias price range. My question–what is the price range? Isn’t there a preset ceiling that would be affordable for all 30 teams? Or is it another example of the O’s taking the cheaper way out(International)?

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 8:53 am

      The Orioles have been allotted $13,821,300 to sign draft picks in rounds 1-10. MLB has a suggested slot limit of $8,415,300 for the Orioles to sign their top pick.

      If the top pick demanded the slot limit amount, it’s conceivable the Orioles might take another high-ranking player, sign him for less so they can spend more on other players later on.

  8. Stephen in Shanghai

    May 10, 2019 at 8:50 am

    I agree with you, Rich. He definitely seems like the best pick. When you are choosing first, always choose the best player available player. Elias will figure out how it impacts Sisco, shortstop, etc. While he may only play 120 games a year, catcher is the one position that has the biggest impact on other players, namely the pitching staff. I think some are wary because Wieters didn’t live up to the hype, but I also think of Buster Posey and the impact he had on three World Series champions.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 8:59 am

      As we say in Shanghai, xie-xie, Stephen.

  9. Camden Brooks

    May 10, 2019 at 9:34 am

    I agree the OSU kid is the way to go. As a side note, I’d be curious as to the % of first round drafts choices that make it to the big leagues, but by position. Get right on that Rich…

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 9:43 am

      At random, I picked 2010. There were 50 picks in the first round, including compensation picks. Seventeen of the 50 didn’t make it to the majors. Six were right-handed pitchers and three were catchers. The conclusion is that teams overreach to pick catchers high in the draft, so if you have one who stands out, snap him up.

    • Camden Brooks

      May 10, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks Rich. Looking forward to your analysis of the 1965-2009 and 2011 – present years!!!

  10. Tony Paparella

    May 10, 2019 at 9:50 am

    I know Varitek and Wieters had decent careers and maybe I don’t appreciate the intangibles a good catcher possesses but I am always concerned with the durability of a player behind the plate and the stress and strain it causes.Neither of the aforementioned players (Varitek and Wieters) set the world on fire (as per their pre draft hype) though as you mentioned those intangibles are priceless.Though it being my personal opinion I have to trust the experts who are on the scene and have all the data and experience necessary to do the task of drafting number one. Orioles have not had that much success over the years with that draft position so I am very leary.Do like the fact that he is a switch hitter (Wieters was also) but Witt and Vaughn sound very enticing to me also.Witt will take time to develope more and Vaughn will be behind Davis for awhile so maybe Adley is the guy.A lot of time has been spent on Sisco so that will be disappointing unless they can find another position for his bat.Is Martin capable of playing offensive MLB is another question I have and will that Vaughn guy end up hitting 35-40 home runs a year for some one else?

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Tony, every position on the ballclub needs upgrading. I don’t think Elias is comparing what is on the ballclub now with what’s available in the draft. It’s not the NFL or NBA where draft choices are expected to play immediately.

  11. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    May 10, 2019 at 9:56 am

    I have seen Rutschman play numerous time in last years College World Series during their championship run. He is a terrific hitter and excellent defensively. Caydn Griener (Shore Birds) and him were team mates . Griener was recently interviewed on the prospects of the Orioles drafting him. Not surprisingly he was in favor of drafting him. He noted he was excellent at managing the game and working with pitchers. With the Orioles having several high level pitching prospects already in their system. His selection seems to be a perfect fit for the Orioles rebuild.

  12. ButchBird59

    May 10, 2019 at 9:58 am

    I’ve been excited watching Grayson Rodriguez blow them away in Delmarva this season. Having a battery mate for him to grow with might be just what this franchise needs.

  13. willmiranda

    May 10, 2019 at 10:09 am

    I don’t think Wieters was “vastly underappreciated.” especially by Oriole fans and reporters. Drop the “vastly” and we can talk. The baseball draft gets less interest than NFL or NBA because the players are far less likely to make an immediate impact. Football and basketball players can turn losers into winners in their first seasons. First-round picks are expected to be instant starters and, at least in the top ten picks, possible all-stars. An overall number one who will have no impact, given the most optimistic projections, for a year or more doesn’t generate the buzz. And, just speculating, the draft in other sports is intended, in large part, to equalize competition. I think in baseball it is largely to eliminate the bidding wars we had in the Bonuc Baby era and save the owners some money.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 11:57 am

      Will, the draft was begun not only for the economic reasons, but started in 1965 as the Yankees long era of dominance was ending.

      • willmiranda

        May 10, 2019 at 1:51 pm

        Thanks for the feedback, Rich. What I was trying to say is that the drafts in other sports are intended to create a higher expectation for immediate competitive improvement than the baseball draft. Thus, more intense interest in the draft itself. An observation, not an argument.

        • Rich Dubroff

          May 10, 2019 at 4:53 pm

          College baseball is not a major sport in this country and little is known about it, including by me. Appreciate your continuing comments, Will.

  14. Bancells Moustache

    May 10, 2019 at 10:21 am

    You guys are overthinking this. Well, what about Sisco, catchers don’t play everyday, middle infield is a need, he might work with Boras blah blah blah. The Orioles are picking first. Rutschman is the best player in the draft. End of discussion.

    Honestly, I’d pick him just for his name. Adley Rutschman sounds like he should be catching for the Baltimore Orioles, and by that I mean the John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler Temple Cup Orioles. (side note: it’s a pet peeve of mine, sure, but it is absolutely criminal that there is not a statue of McGraw, Keeler or Ned Hanlon anywhere in the vicinity of the ballpark)

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 11:59 am

      You’re a creative guy, Bancells. It’s a most interesting suggestion and if you find a sculptor, please let me know.

    • Camden Brooks

      May 10, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      I like his name as well…I’ve mispronounced it as Andy Etchebarren multiple times.

    • BigBirdsBird

      May 12, 2019 at 2:07 am

      Guys the other factor is the team sucks and by year end we will likely battle the Marlins for 1 vs 2 worst record again this year. We should have a tremendous pick again next year certainly top 3 and we can once again go get a top projected talent.

      As sad as this is we will likely be in this position for the next 2 or 3 years it would not he terrible to pick in the top 3 of the draft for 3 or 4 consecutive years we could conceivably shore up 3 or 4 positions for the future assuming these picks pan out which of course in MLB is far from a certainty

  15. Birdman

    May 10, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Agree with the consensus, follow the Ozzie draft formula – best player available, regardless of position … sure hope this guy is faster than Wieters, who was painfully slow on the base paths.

  16. OriolesNumber1Fan

    May 10, 2019 at 11:33 am

    Lookout for pitcher Jackson Rutledge. 6′ 8″ throws in the upper 90’s and has scouts saying all 4 of his pitches including his newly developed slider as plus pitches. Through his 1st 11 starts he has a era of 1.02 with 116 strikeouts in 70.2 innings. If Elias likes strikeout as much as he says, this would be hard to pass up.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks for the tip, No. 1

  17. CalsPals

    May 10, 2019 at 11:55 am

    I’ve been saying since last summer, PLEASE pick Adley, best player available, Sisco played shortstop in HS, try him at 3rd, O’s have had pretty good success w/3rd SS combos, if they’re an athlete, they’ll be able to play….

  18. CalsPals

    May 10, 2019 at 12:44 pm

    Offer KC Sisco, givens & later pick for the 2nd pick…..

    • whiterose

      May 10, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      This is not the NFL

    • CalsPals

      May 10, 2019 at 2:12 pm

      Didn’t say it was, what’s the worse someone can say, No, sounds way better than your suggestion…

      • Bancells Moustache

        May 10, 2019 at 3:25 pm

        Ain’t happening. KC is in as bad a shape as the O’s are, so they are going to pass on Witt Jr. for a guy that has one disastrous turn at the Major League level and a so so reliever?

        • Jbigle1

          May 10, 2019 at 4:08 pm

          You can’t trade draft picks that aren’t CB picks anyway. If they took Witt Jr. he wouldn’t be available to trade until about this time next season. Witt Jr. has legitimate concerns about his hit tool anyway. Think Tim Beckham Esque concerns. IF the hit tool isn’t there you sure as hell don’t take that guy #1. Rutschman will likely sign for less and is the better prospect at this point. You take Rutschman for sure. I don’t even think there’s another consideration for the pick.

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 4:51 pm

      CP, these picks can not be traded.

    • CalsPals

      May 11, 2019 at 10:58 am

      Thx, that was all I was looking for….

  19. Zakw15

    May 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Rutschman or Witt and the decision if you grade them close enough should be asking price. Neither player is considered a franchise changing player, and the orioles need more then 1 player anyway. If we save money in round 1 while getting a comparable player we can go for a harder sign in the next couple rounds because we will have extra money. Getting multiple first round talents by budgeting would be ideal.

  20. Zakw15

    May 10, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    “Knight was selected by the Orioles with the 87th pick in the third round of this year’s MLB Draft, a spot with a signing bonus slot of approximately $664,000. Up until the final day to sign, Baltimore possessed a a pool amount of slightly more than $1.1 million. The undefeated Knight decided to hold out for the total pool amount and in the 11th hour, won the standoff, signing a $1.1 million contract with the organization”

    “Rom was selected No. 115 overall in the draft and signed to an overslot bonus of $650,000. The slot amount for that pick was listed as $483,300. He had a strong commitment to Michigan”

    We saved on Grayson and Grenier and added two overslot guys later on. So far that strategy seems to look like it will pay off.

  21. ClayDal

    May 10, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Reference to trading the pick to Kansas City , draft choices cannot be traded. Except for competitive balance picks. So a trade for the 2nd overall pick isn’t allowed

  22. BirdsCaps

    May 10, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    I feel a little uneasy taking a C with #1 due to Wieters not living up to the hype and Sisco, who seems to be fizzling out. I guess there are no can’t miss no. 1s this year. Hopefully Elias ends up picking more Machado’s than Hobgood’s, Matusz’s, and Loewen’s.

  23. SailinO

    May 10, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    I hope they take Rutschman. It’s natural to focus on the first pick. Rich – do you know how many picks the O’s have? In order to “build that talent pipeline” they need to hit on much more than just the first pick!

    • Rich Dubroff

      May 10, 2019 at 5:00 pm

      Sailin, they have 41 picks–in each of the 40 rounds, plus an additional pick in Competitive Balance “B”

  24. PA Bird Lover

    May 10, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    I’m late getting into this discussion. Often wonder if anyone ever reads a #59 post. Oh well, my two cents is I find it more interesting figuring out if the GM wants the obvious top player or trade that number one for multiple high profile picks. Instead of one juicy red apple, pick out a half dozen others.

    • ClayDal

      May 10, 2019 at 6:23 pm

      Draft choices can’t be traded.

  25. Raymo

    May 10, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    If the Os sign him, they could always move him to a different position immediately as the Nats did with Bryce Harper, or within a few years as the Astros did with Craig Biggio. Guys who can hit like that probably shouldn’t be squatting behind the plate for most of their career. On the other hand, that worked out fine for Bench, Fisk, Posey, etc.

  26. GSISDANNO

    May 11, 2019 at 12:11 am

    Taking a quality catcher would be a great first step for the Orioles. Although injuries kept Matt Wieters from reaching his full potential, Buster Posey helped the Giants win the World Series three times. Jorge Posada won 4 with the Yankees and Varitek won 2 with Boston. A high profile catcher goes a long way.

    • VICTORTEE

      May 11, 2019 at 10:00 am

      Not to be too picky but how many did Ivan Rodriguez and Mauer win? Has Yadier Molina won a WS?

      • Rich Dubroff

        May 11, 2019 at 1:45 pm

        Yadier Molina won World Series in 2006 and 2011, Rodriguez won one in 2003 with the Marlins, and Mauer hasn’t played in one.

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