On the same day that Baseball America upgraded the Orioles farm system to No. 2 behind the Mariners, their highest ranking since the publication began keeping count 37 years ago, the club announced a boatload of minor league promotions headed by 2021 first-round draft pick Colton Cowser moving up from the Rookie-level Florida Complex League to low Single-A Delmarva.
They shall meet again.
Adley Rutschman gets more opportunities to catch Blaine Knight and Cody Sedlock after the right-handers climbed from Bowie to Triple-A Norfolk. Baseball’s top prospect beat them to the highest affiliate and is doing his usual job of impressing on and off the field.
It began with his first spring training, where Orioles veterans accepted him right away. Confident, but not too cocky. Respectful and receptive to instruction. Knows plenty, but doesn’t act like he knows everything.
And the kid comes as advertised at the plate and behind it.
Rutschman is 8-for-21 with two doubles and five RBIs in five games with the Tides. In his first four tries with runners in scoring position, he went 4-for-4 with five RBIs.
“He goes about his business like a professional,” said Norfolk hitting coach Tim Gibbons. “I’ve had the privilege of working with him in the spring the last couple years, so we’ve had good relationship going in and we’re just picking up where we left off and I’m just taking up the work that he left off with at Bowie with (Ryan) Fuller and Grant Anders and Jeff Kunkel and all those guys there. So we’re just staying the course with Adley.
“Obviously, he’s a beast and he goes about his business like a pro, so he’s a pleasure to work with. He has a great hitting mind. He comes in the dugout sharing his thoughts about each at-bat, what he was looking for and kind of going through the process. He’s an absolute pleasure to have around. He’s definitely made an immediate impact on our lineup.”
The work ethic and maturity grade as highly as his arm and power. Being the first overall selection in 2019 didn’t change him beyond his address and bank account.
“He has great makeup,” Gibbons said.
“My favorite story about Adley so far, because I’m sure there’s going to be lots more, in 2020 spring training it was his last day in major league camp before they told him that he was going back to Twin Lakes on the minor league side. I had my wife and son down in Sarasota and it was probably 2 1/2 hours after practice had ended. The whole facility, everyone was gone, the facility was clear, so I take my son and wife to the cage just to show them around and there’s Adley setting up the tee. Just trying to work and get better because he had just gotten told that he was going to Twin Lakes and he’s there working.
“We ended up spending 45 minutes, threw him some flips, threw to him a little bit, and my son got to watch a young athlete just put in some work. You talk about his makeup, that’s it right there. He wasn’t satisfied. It was like, ‘I need to be back here, this is where I belong, I’m going to keep working, keep grinding.’ He didn’t take it as a negative. He just took it as, ‘I’ve got to keep working.’ He’s always had that same demeanor ever since I’ve known him and got to work with him.”
Teammates at Norfolk were excited for his arrival, though I can’t speak for the catchers who would get fewer starts.
Rutschman is described by infielder Rylan Bannon as “an awesome guy,” proving again that he’s somehow able to blend and standout at the same time.
“He brings a spark with him,” Bannon said. “When he showed up, there was definitely a little extra spark in the clubhouse. Everybody was excited to have him, just kind of knowing who he is. But at the end of the day, we don’t look at him like he’s the one/one, he’s this big prospect.
“He’s a really good guy. He’s super down to earth. We definitely enjoy having him around. He brings a lot to the clubhouse. He’s a good dude.”
Bannon is primarily a third baseman but also moves over to second, where Jahmai Jones is getting most of the starts and trying to convince the Orioles that he’s ready defensively.
“I’ve seen he’s come a long way,” Bannon said. “At the beginning of the season he was working on a lot of things and that was always their big thing with them was for him to work on his defense. To see him have some success over there with his defense is awesome. He’s definitely cleaned up a lot of stuff.
“He’s a great guy. He’s fun to have around the clubhouse, and to see him putting in the work and it paying off and he’s looking a lot better over there, it’s cool to see.”