Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman is in the thick of the voting for American League Rookie of the Year. While waiting for next month’s announcement, he has become the recipient of a local honor bestowed annually by media covering the team.
Rutschman has been voted Most Valuable Oriole, the third rookie since the award’s inception in 1954, joining pitchers Gregg Olson in 1989 and Rodrigo López in 2002. He’s just the third catcher to be named MVO, along with Gus Triandos in 1958 and Chris Hoiles in 1993.
The Orioles are 66-53 since Rutschman’s promotion on May 21 as baseball’s No. 1 prospect. And it isn’t a coincidence.
There’s lots of data to back it up.
The first-overall selection in the 2019 draft is slashing .251/.356/.444 in 110 games, with 34 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 42 RBIs, 61 walks and 84 strikeouts. Baseball-Reference.com assigns him a 5.0 WAR.
The 35 doubles are a franchise record for a catcher, surpassing Javy López’s 33 in 2004. He also broke the rookie record that Cal Ripken Jr. held since 1982.
Ripken and Rutschman are the only Orioles rookies with at least 10 home runs and 30 doubles in a season.
Rutschman’s work behind the plate also is lauded. His skills at blocking pitches, his ability to call a game and navigate pitchers through it. His energy level and leadership at age 24.
His 17 defensive runs saved lead the Orioles and are the second-most by a catcher in the majors, according to Sports Info Solutions.
Rutschman leads the club and major league rookies in FanGraph.com’s fWAR at 5.1, which also is ninth among AL hitters. It’s the third-best fWAR by a rookie catcher in major league history behind Mike Piazza’s 7.4 in 1993 and Carlton Fisk’s 6.6 in 1972), and the second-best by an Orioles rookie after Bobby Grich’s 5.4 in 1972.
The former Oregon State standout leads the Orioles in doubles and walks, ranks third in runs scored, fifth in extra-base hits and sixth in total bases. Among Orioles batters with at least 400 plate appearances, he ranks first in on-base percentage and OPS and is second in slugging percentage.
Rutschman’s 13 home runs are the second-most by an Orioles rookie catcher in history behind Dan Graham's 15 in 1980 and are the second-most by a switch-hitting rookie catcher in major league history behind Mitch Meluskey's 14 with the Astros in 2000.
Manager Brandon Hyde said over the weekend that he realized the Orioles had turned a corner when Rutschman arrived. That they could make a run at the playoffs and end a five-year streak of losing records.
The Orioles have 82 wins, 30 more than in 2021.
The kid more than lived up to the hype. And there’s a lot more to come.
“We started playing better baseball, started taking better at-bats, winning more series,” Hyde said in New York. “We had winning months of just playing good baseball, pitching well. I don’t know if there was a moment, but once Adley got here we started playing better.
“To be able to put him in the top part of the lineup, to be able to catch the majority of the games. The way him and Robby (Chirinos) handled our pitching staff I thought was incredible. To have the guy behind the plate controlling the game, and the at-bats he takes, as well. He got a bunch of big hits late in games. He’s been a huge difference for our team.”
Voting is done on a 5-3-1 basis. Also receiving votes were Félix Bautista, Austin Hays, Jordan Lyles, Jorge Mateo, Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, Rougned Odor and Anthony Santander.
Rutschman will be honored on the field, weather permitting, before tonight’s series opener against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards.