I come to praise Adley Rutschman, not to bury Matt Wieters.
The trick is doing one without the other.
The comparisons between the first-round catchers and their intensely hyped travels through the minors and anticipated major league debuts are as unavoidable as traffic on I-495.
Wieters was dubbed “The baby Jesus,” “Jesus in spikes” and “The switch-hitting Jesus,” when he simply wanted to be known as “Matt.”
Teammates at Georgia Tech called him “God.” Apparently, he didn’t get a vote.
I mean, how many people are given approval rights over their nickname? It’s handed out and you wear it.
The Orioles hadn’t announced their choice with the first overall pick in 2019 and people who assumed they’d take Rutschman began linking the two catchers as if they were Rule 5 selections in spring training. For the position they played, the tremendously high ceilings, the reputations at the plate and behind it, the ability to make scouts drool puddles.
Two stud, can’t-miss prospects capable of lifting an entire organization on their shoulders and carrying it to prominence.
Double-A Bowie manager Buck Britton was asked for his comp during a Zoom call this week and naturally gravitated toward the former Georgia Tech star and fifth overall pick in 2007
“The easy comparison a little bit is Matt Wieters,” he said.
“I think Matt had a different body type than he does. Adley’s a little more athletic behind the plate, but a switch-hitter with power. I think he’s got a chance to stay healthy, too, just the way he’s built. He’s a big, athletic kid, though. He really is super athletic. So I think that would be my comparison, just because I did see a lot of Matt Wieters, and Matt had a pretty good career for the Orioles. I think this kid has a chance to be special.”
The “pretty good career” part jumps off the screen.
Wieters was supposed to be the next Johnny Bench or “Mauer with power,” but he didn’t become a Hall of Famer or three-time batting champion with muscle. He simply put together a really nice stretch with the Orioles, making four All-Star teams and winning back-to-back Gold Gloves. He was really good for a period.
He also batted .256/.318/.421 in eight seasons before moving to the Nationals and Cardinals - he remains on the free agent market with his 35th birthday approaching this month - and owns an 18.3 WAR, per BaseballReference.com. Bench checks in at 75.1 and Mauer at 55.2.
Wieters slashed .230/.303/.355 in 199 games with the Nationals and .212/.274/.399 in 86 games with the Cardinals. In his final season with the Orioles, he batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 doubles and 17 home runs in 464 plate appearances.
He never hit more than 23 home runs in a season, which is fine if you’re Nick Markakis. No one called him the next Hank Aaron.
Wieters played an important role in the Orioles’ rise to contender and the end of their postseason drought. He unfairly gets bashed for not meeting expectations that now seem so unreasonable. But he wasn’t elite and the Orioles need much more from the first overall selection.
The “switch-hitting jeez” also isn’t a label you want to wear.
Rutschman went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in his first Double-A game and I jokingly was going to tweet “Bust!” Except I worried about fans agreeing and piling on - after one game in his first full professional season.
But no pressure, kid.
Starting at first base the following night, Rutschman singled, walked and had an RBI and run scored. He was behind the plate last night and had a home run, two-run double and walk.
My prediction is that Rutschman is going to be so good that failed catching prospects will be called, “Sadly not Adley.”
Are southpaws required for a trip south?
The Orioles need a spot starter Saturday night after optioning Zimmermann and could try another bullpen game, depending on its usage tonight.
Baysox left-hander Kevin Smith tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings with five hits, one walk and five strikeouts. The Orioles acquired Smith from the Mets in the Miguel Castro trade.
Single-A Delmarva’s Gunnar Henderson hit his second home run. The Shorebirds are loaded with shortstop prospects and Henderson took his turn as designated hitter.
Single-A Aberdeen’s Kyle Brnovich, part of the Dylan Bundy trade with the Angels, shut out Wilmington on one hit over five innings. He walked none and struck out six.