He wasn’t named the American League Rookie of the Year last night. The Orioles' Adley Rutschman finished second to Seattle’s Julio Rodriguez. But there is no shame in that, and it doesn’t diminish from the strong rookie year he had or what is expected for his future.
And that is simply, greatness, so the expectations, as always for Rutschman, are high. He could be the face of this franchise for many years to come.
Rutschman did get one first-place vote and Rodriguez got 29 of 30 to easily win with 148 points to 68 for Rutschman and 44 for Cleveland’s Steven Kwan, once an Oregon State teammate of Adley.
Rutschman, over 113 games, batted .254/.362/.445/.807 with 70 runs, 35 doubles, one triple, 13 homers and 42 RBIs. After his call to the majors on May 21, the Orioles went 67-55. He produced 18 Defensive Runs Saved, which was second among MLB catchers and tied for eighth in the majors.
Among FanGraphs.com’s Wins Above Replacement, Rutschman produced 5.3 WAR and so did Rodriguez with Kwan at 4.4. In the baseball-reference WAR version, Rodriguez produced 6.2 with Kwan at 5.5 and Rutschman 5.2. But Rutschman’s projected WAR over 162 games was 7.5.
Rutschman’s 5.3 fWAR is the third-best by a rookie catcher in MLB history, trailing only the Dodgers’ Mike Piazza (7.4, 1993) and Boston's Carlton Fisk (6.6, 1972) and it is the second-best by an O's rookie in franchise history trailing only Bobby Grich (5.4, 1972).
His 35 doubles are the most by an Orioles rookie in a single season in franchise history, surpassing the mark of 32 set by Orioles Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1982; they are also the most by a primary O's catcher in a single season, ahead of Javy López with 33 in 2004. His 65 walks are the fourth-most by an O's rookie, trailing Curt Blefary (88, 1965), Ron Hansen (69, 1960), and Jim Gentile (68, 1960); Blefary, Hansen, and Gentile each appeared in at least 138 games. He led the O's in doubles and walks, ranked third in runs scored, fifth in extra-base hits (49), and sixth in total bases (177); among O's batters with at least 400 plate appearances, he led the team in on-base percentage and OPS and ranked second in slugging percentage.
During the MLB Network telecast last night, Rutschman talked about his ritual of running to the mound to the pitcher after each half inning.
“The thing is, I have tremendous role models in my life. My dad and my grandpa all played baseball. My dad was a catcher. Just seeing the way that he treats people, the way he interacts with people it is something I always wanted to try and do the same and live up to his reputation and legacy that he and my grandpa developed. That is kind of my responsibility now. For me, it is one of those things, I try to go with my emotions and be genuine with all the guys. I get excited when they do well and when they don’t I want to help that out as best I can. That is just something that started from, I think, the time I was in middle school on up and developed into what it is. Just cool to be part of a team and trying to win together. You try to appreciate every moment,” he said.
So, Rutschman did not become the seventh BBWAA Rookie of the Year in team history. He would have joined this list:
1960 – Ron Hansen
1965 – Curt Blefary
1973 – Al Bumbry
1977 – Eddie Murray
1982 – Cal Ripken Jr.
1989 – Gregg Olson
But Rutschman is keeping pretty great company here – the highest wRC+, MLB rookie catchers since 1961:
165 – Carlton Fisk, 1972
150 – Mike Piazza, 1993
134 – Buster Posey, 2010
133 – Adley Rutschman, 2022
Also, by virtue of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed before the 2022 year, and by virtue of his second-place finish, Rutschman gets a full year of service time for 2022, as if he was on the roster from opening day on. Without that, Rutschman could have qualified for free agency after the 2028 season. Now he can be a free agent after the 2027 season.
What does this mean for the Orioles? The assumption all along was the team at some point and maybe it’s closer than we might think, would look to lock up Rutschman to a long-term deal well ahead of his free agency. Now they have complete clarity on the date.
Had Rutschman been on the O's roster all year and also finished among the top three, the Orioles would benefit by getting an extra draft pick. The club would be in this exact position next year if Gunnar Henderson (still rookie eligible for 2023) is on the roster all year and finishes in the top three for this award 12 months from now. And I will assume that if Henderson and say Grayson Rodriguez both finished in the top three, the team would get two extra draft picks.