As new Orioles general manager Mike Elias said this week, he is looking to take the best player and not work to fill a need on his major league roster with top draft picks. You can’t have a higher pick than No. 1 in round one, which the Orioles hold for the June 2019 First-Year Player Draft.
That could be a pick, however, that sees the Orioles not only take the best player, but fill a need. The club is not overflowing with top catching prospects, and a backstop could be their selection when the time comes.
Will the Orioles be drafting a college catcher with the No. 1 pick? Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com thinks that could be the case. He wrote about it this week for MLBPipeline.com.
“He’s not a slam-dunk No. 1 overall pick like, say, Stephen Strasburg and Carlos Rodon were perceived to be at this stage, but Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman is a strong frontrunner to go to the Orioles with the first choice in June,” Callis said.
“Rutschman has proven himself at a higher level than Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., and as a switch-hitter with hitting ability, power and strong defensive skills at the toughest position to find, it’s debatable as to whether he really has less upside. Though Witt was inconsistent with the bat at times on the showcase circuit, all of his other tools are plus, and his makeup is off the charts, so he’s a viable option as well.”
Here is Baseball America’s scouting report on Rutschman: “The consensus top college prospect, Rutschman led Oregon State to a College World Series title during his sophomore season while leading the Beavers in hitting. He then joined USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team shortly after his college season and led all USA hitters in each triple slash category. Rutschman has been on scouts’ radars since he was in high school, where he had impressive raw power, touched 94 mph off the mound and was also an elite kicker - he served as the Beavers’ place kicker during his freshman season before turning his focus completely to baseball. After polishing his game in all facets in Corvallis, Rutschman has no holes in his game, with plus defensive tools ranging from receiving ability to a strong, accurate arm. He’s a plus hitter from both sides of the plate with a long track record of hitting, and he’s also a fierce leader on the field and the favorite to become the first overall pick next June.”
Rutschman hit .408/.505/.628 for Oregon State last season, leading the team to the College World Series title. For the year he hit 22 doubles, three triples, nine homers and drove in 83 runs in 67 games with an OPS of 1.133. He walked more than he struck out, 53 times to 40.
He was the Most Outstanding Player in the CWS, with 17 hits in eight games, a CWS record, which included three doubles, two homers and 13 RBIs. Scouts say he has a well-above-average arm. So yeah, there is a lot to like here if he turns out to be the Orioles’ selection with the No. 1 pick.
The last catcher taken with the overall No. 1 pick was Joe Mauer by Minnesota in 2001. The last time the Orioles selected a catcher with their top pick was in 2007, when they selected Matt Wieters No. 5 overall out of Georgia Tech.
A note of appreciation: Two people I’ve worked with for a long time left the Orioles this week. I’m talking about scouting director Gary Rajsich and director of player development Brian Graham.
I probably can’t count high enough to tell you the number of times each helped me immensely through the years. And these are indeed relationships built up over years. Readers seem to appreciate the coverage of the minors here, and I am so thankful for that. The coverage was not possible without both of those men. They took phone calls from me constantly, at all days and times, and could have not been more professional and helpful.
They never failed to help me with anything I sought. They answered every question - even the stupid ones - and always provided information that made this job easier. How you do better than working with pros like that? Again, they helped me more times than I can count.
We all understand that Elias has to be given the chance to bring in his own top people. It makes sense and will serve him well, no doubt. There is a lot of change in baseball every year and good people move on, and we welcome others in to Baltimore.
But everyone should know how good both these guys are at what they do. The Orioles will reap the benefits of their work for years to come. They both had a big hand in helping the club produce such a great record and three playoff appearances from 2012-2016. I look forward to crossing paths with both down the road, wherever it takes them.