There could always be a surprise and the Orioles are not going to tip their hand, but for now all signs continue to point to the club taking Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with the first pick in the First-Year Player Draft on June 3.
Good luck finding a mock draft that doesn’t have the Orioles making the switch-hitting junior the No. 1 selection. He’s having a sensational season. MLBPipeline.com analyst Jonathan Mayo was a guest recently on “O’s Xtra” on MASN and said that he feels Rutschman compares well to previous players taken 1/1.
“He stacks up pretty well,” Mayo said. “We are talking about one of the best hitters in college baseball. He hits for average, he hits for power. He walks more than he strikes out. And he’s also a plus defender behind the plate with a very good arm. Good catching and receiving skills. I think the all-around combination of tools that he has puts him up right up with some of the better players. I don’t know that we’ve had a college bat to be as excited about, especially when you add in the defensive ability. When you have a guy that can hit, hit for power and he plays a premium position, you don’t see that very often.”
Through 52 games, Rutschman is batting .427/.584/.772 for Oregon State, the defending College World Series champion. He has nine doubles, a triple, 16 homers, 55 RBIs, 69 walks and 36 strikeouts.
But this is the draft, and there can always be last-minute surprises.
“One thing (Orioles general manager) Mike Elias learned in Houston is that, one, you really keep things close to the vest. And two, they really explore any and all options,” Mayo said. “They are not afraid to go in a different direction. Say they want to save a lot of money and then be aggressive later on. They don’t have a ton of extra picks, so I’m not sure that will work. But if I were a betting man, I had Adley Rutschman in my mock draft last week and would think he remains there. He is the No. 1 guy in terms of talent on pretty much every ranking and draft board.”
Mayo adds there is no concern for him in seeing the Orioles take a catcher, who may only start 125 games a year, over a shortstop or another player who could start 162 games.
“Look around Major League Baseball,” he said. “How many elite-level catchers are there? Yes, they don’t play as many games, but they’re involved in every single pitch. I think the impact a catcher has for 120 games is as great, if not greater, than a shortstop or any other position for 150 games.
“Sure Bobby Witt Jr. is a very talented player. But he’s also a high school player that will take longer. You could argue that he may be the most talented, tooled-up player in the draft. But if you are trying to find a balance between high upside and potential with a high floor, then Rutschman is your guy.”
Signability and bonus demands can always factor in here. And in the first two drafts under the new collective bargaining agreement, Minnesota and Detroit selecting 1/1, respectively, signed that player for under slot and used the savings on other players.
“Since they started this most recent bonus-pool system, no player has signed for full slot at 1/1,” Mayo said, noting that the slot amount for this year’s No. 1 pick is $8,415,300. “So, even if you take the best player on the board, you are likely to save some money. I have no idea what Adley Rutschman or Bobby Witt Jr.’s signability is. But chances are you are going to get them for under pick value. So you can be more aggressive with that second-round pick. Yes, they can be creative. The danger can be trying to be too clever. You take the best player.”
We’re now less than two weeks away from the first of three days of the First-Year Player Draft set for June 3.
About last night: The Orioles had an ugly 10-0 loss at Cleveland on Sunday afternoon, but Monday night’s 10-7 loss to the Yankees was both ugly and brutal. The O’s led 6-1 in the fourth and 7-3 after the sixth inning. The Yankees scored nine runs the last four innings and four runs in the top of the ninth.
The Orioles made way too many mistakes on defense late in that game, from throwing to the wrong base to catcher Pedro Severino losing track of that foul popup that would have ended the top of the ninth with the score tied at 7-7. A Gary Sánchez three-run homer followed Severino’s misplay.
O’s pitchers have allowed 17 homers in four home games versus New York this year, going 0-4. Over their last five games overall, the Orioles have given up 10 runs or more three times.
There were positive things, too, for the Orioles. Hanser Alberto set a career high in hits, going 4-for-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Trey Mancini drove in two. Renato Núñez had a double and a homer, possibly beginning to pull out of a 6-for-68 slump. Andrew Cashner delivered his fourth quality start in his past five games and has a 3.41 ERA in that span. Richie Martin played the heck out of shortstop and Rio Ruiz was strong again with the glove at third base.
But the night ended with a disheartening loss, and now the Orioles have to try to regroup. They had a couple of tough losses in Cleveland, and last night’s defeat may have been the season’s worst.