Orioles shouldn't rush Adley Rutschman to the majors - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles shouldn’t rush Adley Rutschman to the majors

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

One of the most frequent comments on BaltimoreBaseball.com is that Adley Rutschman should begin 2021 with the Orioles. He won’t, and he shouldn’t.

Rutschman, the No. 1 draft pick in June 2019, has played in just 37 professional games, catching only 17. He hasn’t played above Low-A Delmarva.

It wasn’t Rutschman’s fault that there was no minor league play in 2020. If the season hadn’t been canceled by the pandemic, he would have begun the year at High-A Frederick and could have been promoted to Double-A Bowie.

Then, perhaps, he would have begun 2021 at Triple-A and been promoted to the Orioles later in the season.

His timetable has likely been pushed back. No one knows what the makeup of the Orioles’ minor leagues will be in 2021,  and we don’t know if Rutschman will start at High-A, or Double-A, wherever those franchises are.

The Orioles did their best to get Rutschman work in 2020, assigning him to the Bowie alternate site after they got another look at him in summer camp.

At Bowie, Rutschman got to catch the Orioles’ top pitching prospects — Michael Baumann, DL Hall, Zac Lowther, Isaac Mattson and Grayson Rodriguez, with whom he had worked at Delmarva in 2019. He also hit against those pitchers and others with major league experience.

An October spent at the Instructional League helped, but the weeks in Sarasota and the time in Bowie don’t make up for the minor league season Rutschman missed.

We don’t even know if the major league season will be a conventional 162 games, or one that’s much shorter. To start Rutschman in the major leagues would be unfair to him.

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Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, who chose Rutschman in the draft, has been conservative in promoting other Oriole prospects, all of whom were drafted before Elias’ arrival.

Outfielder Anthony Santander didn’t come up for good until June 2019. Outfielder Austin Hays was finally summoned in September 2019, perhaps for good, and outfielder/infielder Ryan Mountcastle, who was learning left field in Bowie, didn’t make his major league debut until August. Those timings seem to have worked well.

Elias has been clear that he didn’t want to bring key minor leaguers up until they had a good chance to stay with the team. Bringing them up and then sending them down isn’t his strategy, although the team did briefly do that with left-hander Keegan Akin last August.

The Orioles had a situation that was comparable to Rutschman’s. In June 2007, just before Andy MacPhail was hired as the team’s president of baseball operations, they drafted another heralded catcher, Matt Wieters, fourth overall.

Wieters, represented by Scott Boras, was also a highly rated college catcher, and didn’t sign until the August 15th deadline.

The Orioles chose not to play him in the final days of the 2007 minor league season and sent him to winter ball in Hawaii instead.

In 2008, he began his professional career at Frederick, putting up terrific numbers for the Keys. Wieters hit .345 with a 1.029 OPS in 69 games.

After his promotion to Bowie, Wieters hit .365 with a 1.085 OPS in 61 games. In his time with the Keys and Baysox, Wieters hit 27 home runs and drove in 91 runs.

MacPhail, who helped set up the Orioles for their 2012-2016 success by acquiring  Zack Britton, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman, could have brought Wieters to Baltimore at the end of 2008.

The Orioles were going nowhere, suffering through their 11th straight losing season, and fans were eager to see Wieters.

But MacPhail refused to call him up, and he began 2009 at Triple-A Norfolk. After 39 games and a .305 average and .890 OPS with the Tides, Wieters was brought to Baltimore and debuted on May 29th.

Wieters had a solid career with the Orioles, and was one of the best catchers in team history, but he didn’t live up to the hype that accompanied his early years.

MacPhail did Buck Showalter, whom he hired in July 2010, and his successor, Dan Duquette, a favor by delaying Wieters’ debut.

To call Wieters up prematurely would have been, in MacPhail’s terminology, “front office malpractice.”

Thanks to MacPhail, Wieters stayed with the Orioles not only through 2014, when he missed most of the season after Tommy John surgery, but through 2015, when he was recovering from it. Wieters accepted a qualifying offer, extending his run with the Orioles through 2016.

Elias is hoping for even greater success with Rutschman, and if he delays the start of the Adley Era until late 2021 or 2022, he can have his star play with the team as it introduces more young prospects and presumably gets better.

With Rutschman’s lack of minor league experience, a hasty promotion could force Elias to do what he doesn’t want to, return Rutschman to the minors if he’s over his head.

Rutschman is strong mentally, and playing in the major leagues is difficult. With the minor league season still uncertain, it’s important that Rutschman experience the challenges that High-A, Double-A or Triple-A hand him before coming to the Orioles.

Elias isn’t sharing his private timetable for Rutschman, but he wants his time with the Orioles to coincide with the catcher’s best, and the team’s.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

28 Comments

28 Comments

  1. VICTORTEE

    December 1, 2020 at 8:21 am

    And the Braves bring up KIDS like Acuna and Albies and they have thrived. It is a case by case thing. Patience is not always better.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 1, 2020 at 9:06 am

      Vic, the difference is that Acuna and Albies signed at 16. Both were in the majors within four years of signing. Rutschman signed at 21, and had it not been for last year’s wipeout of the minor leagues, would have been in the majors within two years of signing.

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 12:02 pm

      AND played three full college seasons…just saying…go O’s…

      • Phil770

        December 1, 2020 at 12:50 pm

        with an aluminum bat; plus his college experience was not as intense as playing baseball nearly full time, year-round.

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      Not aluminum anymore, haven’t been for yrs, characteristics are much more similar to wood than they’ve ever been…go O’s…

  2. Baltimore Castaway

    December 1, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Adley Rutschman should be promoted to Baltimore around when Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall arrive on the scene–not much before. His time should coincide closely when the other Top Prospects get here–thinking later in 2022/early 2023.

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 1, 2020 at 8:48 am

    If he’s truly such an advanced prospect with such a great head on his shoulders .. as has been reported from day one .. then bring him up! Isn’t this what the organization has been selling for the past year and ½? Adley Rutshman, boy wonder?

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 1, 2020 at 9:38 am

      Ken, if he’s not ready, you waste a year of his service time. I’d like to see him, too, but because of the lost minor league time, he needs to play there first.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 1, 2020 at 12:21 pm

        With all due respect Rich, see below…

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      But what if he is ready….go O’s…

  4. Orioles20

    December 1, 2020 at 9:25 am

    I figure him hall and Rodriguez will start at Bowie. But it could be Federick but I’ve heard the team getting condensed. They have stopgap options so take time with him. As we saw with mountcastle it was worth the wait. He had thing he needed to work on and the development team helped him fix those and he flourished in his first action.

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 12:05 pm

      Adley isn’t trying to find a position, offensively Mountcastle was ready much earlier, but he didn’t play any position adequately for them…don’t think that’s Rutschman’s issue…go O’s…

  5. OriolesNumber1Fan

    December 1, 2020 at 10:52 am

    Totally agree with you Rich! Let the kid develop into the player we all want to see and not rush him. Patience here like we did for Ryan Mountcastle and we all seen what that did! Hopefully, he knocks on the proverbial door soon but don’t put the weight of the franchise on this kids head before he even plays a game. The game is hard enough without the added pressure. Us true Oriole fans all want this kid to succeed and will wait until he does succeed with his development, so let’s give him the fighting chance to do so. So let him learn and develop in the minor’s into the player we’re hoping he could be and not rush his development. That helps no one! Btw, this should be the case for any minor leaguers!

  6. Bhoffman1

    December 1, 2020 at 11:11 am

    Just curious Rich how much minor league experience did Tatis and Soto have and doesn’t college experience mean something . Adley had that neither one of those two guys did.

    • Rich Dubroff

      December 1, 2020 at 11:21 am

      Bruce, Tatis had three years of minor league time. Soto had two and about six weeks of a third.

      It’s having just 37 games of low minor league time for Rutschman. If he’s terrific in the minors in 2021, like Wieters was, then bring him up.

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 12:07 pm

      Didn’t address his three yrs of college experience, Tatis & Soto had none…go O’s…

  7. Orial

    December 1, 2020 at 11:30 am

    I can probably count the number of ABs Rutchsmam has had on one hand(give or take). Find a way to at least get a full season of professional ball under his belt before bringing him up. If you must– Sept. of 2021 but 2022 looks more reasonable.

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    December 1, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Ya know, we’ve been told from jump that he was defensively ready for the Bigs before he was ever drafted. Then we were told how he was ripping the cover off the ball at the 60 man camp last summer. Sounds like he’s ready to me.

    Now we’re reminded how the ‘development team’ turned Mountcastle into the budding star he apparently is. Of course, this came after a season and a half of being AAA’s best player. Sounds to me like he was developed before the 2019 season ever started. And yet they kept him down until mid-2020? I wonder if you ask Ryan when exactly he was ready, what he’d say? I’m guessing that he would, along with a lot of other ‘real Oriole’ fans, say it was say before they called him up.

    Oh, but keeping these boys down adds a year or 2 to their Oriole service time. Well, I’ve got another solution to keeping the guys in Black and Orange a bit longer. PAY THEM what the market calls for. Ooooooh…..but we’re a small market team we’re told, we simply can’t afford the price of doing MLB business!!! Next solution .. put a team on the field that is worth paying to watch….and if you still can’t make payroll … Nashville beckons. I suggest Mike and the Angelos boys figure it out.

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 12:39 pm

      I’ve read/heard this multiple times, if they don’t want to pay players what major leaguers get paid maybe they should look for another vocation…in Elias first press conference he stated he makes the decisions…then start making some…don’t “Mountcastle “ Rutschman, he will remember how he was treated…go O’s…

    • Phil770

      December 1, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      Tampa Bay will get to Nashville long before the O’s.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        December 1, 2020 at 7:27 pm

        Portland?

  9. Phil770

    December 1, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Rich, thanks for sharing these thoughts, especially because you knew you get a lot of blow back from many of the regulars on this site. The guy played 185 games in college over 3 years, he’s play 37 the last 1.5 years. Seems reasonable that his capabilities and skills need to be honed just a bit. I think it has very little to do with Service time, with the new CBA negotiations coming soon, who knows what that will be. I thought Wieters was a lot more hyped and did not live up to the hype that AR. Let’s see if there can be a Full Spring training, and if it proceeds a planned full MLB season and if MiLB season occurs, including contraction. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to find out if Chance Sisco is a Major League catcher or just another promising prospect brought up too soon.

  10. Bhoffman1

    December 1, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    Not many players went from college directly to the majors Bob Horner of the Braves was one of them and had a decent career. I say for Adley if we have any sort of normal 2021 with the vaccine could be a possibility let him play till July in the minors if he lights it up bring him up then. I don’t think we are going to keep Severino and has much as I was a fan of Sisco he has been very uneven in his performance.

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 2:01 pm

      Former golden spikes player & pitcher Jim Abbot did ok, w/one hand…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      December 1, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      Not a Blue Jays fan, but John Olerud also had a decent career…go O’s…

    • Birdman

      December 1, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      Good point, Bhoffman. College experience is not the equivalent of playing minor league baseball against entirely professional competition. Only a small percentage of the players from Division I college baseball, even from the top programs, ever make it to the minor league level.

  11. ClayDal

    December 1, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    If 2020 were a normal year, Rutschman would have most likely started at Frederick, been promoted to Bowie in July and spent a couple weeks in August at Norfolk. The cancellation of the minor league season altered that obviously. Assuming there is a minor league season in 2021, he probably starts at AA, wherever that is. If he has no issues, should be up here sometime in 2021. If you look at overall #1 picks since 2012, only Correa and Swanson are established MLB players. The overall #1 picks in 2013-14 never made the majors ( both picked by Elias’s Astros by the way. So Rutschman seems to be progressing as normal.
    As for Mountcastle, looking back at the 2015 draft, 5 players who are either with or were with the Orioles were taken ahead of him. All college players. Tate-4th,Fulmer-8th, Martin-20th, Stewart-25, Chris Shaw-31. Mountcastle at 36 came from high school. Arguably, he is the most established player of the bunch. So it’s really a case by case situation

  12. willmiranda

    December 2, 2020 at 11:30 am

    This is fun to discuss, but I don’t think you can really prove or deny the value of something that didn’t happen. Wieters’ career was what it was, overhyped just like all Boras’ clients but a successful major league tenure. Personally, I don’t think bringing him up the previous year would have noticeably crippled or tarnished his career overall. No reason to think it would have enhanced it either, except maybe for longevity. Likewise, it’s hard to say that Mountcastle, Hays, et al. are more successful for having been delayed; in fact, their ML careers have only begun, and evaluating them will take some time. As for Rutschman, I don’t think he’s ready. To me he’s a great all-around prospect who needs to polish all aspects of his game to be fully effective. Players who come up early, it seems to me, have overwhelming natural physical talent — speed, size, power, great arm, or some such– that enables them to compete from the get-go. They can then round out their game at the ML level. As a fan, I do wonder about a GM’s “private” timetable. Sounds like “secretive” to me, or maybe “non-existent.”

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