He may not see the Orioles roster at all in the 2020 season. But at a time when expectations will be very low for the team in the standings, they will remain very high for at least one player in the organization come next season.
That player is catcher Adley Rutschman. In June, the Orioles made him just the second overall No. 1 draft pick in team history. He was then signed to a record $8.1 million bonus and there is almost no way to temper expectations at this point.
While fans greatly anticipate his eventual rise to the majors, the Orioles may not be in a rush to get him there. If wins are a low priority for the 2020 team during rebuilding, there seems little reason to get Rutschman to the majors next year - even if he’s good enough to make that leap.
After he signed last year, he played in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and also at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and for Single-A Delmarva. He could start out next year back with Delmarva or maybe even at Single-A Frederick. But it will be his first full season of pro ball and he very likely will spend every day of it in the minor leagues. Although we could see him at major league camp in February.
Rutschman hit .143 in five games with the GCL Orioles last summer and then moved to Aberdeen. He excelled in 20 games there, batting .325/.413/.481 with seven doubles, a triple, a homer and 15 RBIs. He moved to Delmarva and hit .154 in 12 games with the Shorebirds and played with the team in the South Atlantic League playoffs, even though Delmarva was eliminated, two games to none, by Hickory.
Rutschman, who led Oregon State to the College World Series title in 2018, was ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the sport by Baseball America and No. 6 by MLBPipeline.com. Baseball America rated Rutschman’s hit tool and arm as nearly top of scale 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. MLBPipeline.com provided 60 grades for those tools.
When Rutschman moved to Delmarva on Aug. 21, he went hitless in his first game, going 0-for-2 with two walks. But behind the plate, he looked like he had been with the team all year. He caught a five-pitcher two-hitter with 12 strikeouts. But beyond his physical gifts, it was how quickly he picked up a scouting report and could put it to use against Greensboro hitters that really impressed his manager Kyle Moore.
“It was awesome,” Moore said. “Justin Ramsey (Shorebirds pitching coach) went over the scouting report with him and I was really impressed how well he called a game based on some holes in the other guys’ swings that we identified. Which sometimes, when you throw nine (opponent) batters right at somebody and you’ve got a lot going on, you might not remember what you had talked about. But he did a great job. He went in on some guys where the only hole was in. We had one meeting and he got it like that. The stuff he retained so quickly was impressive.”
And while the hype and attention around him was crazy that night - his first night with a full season minor league team - Adley seemed to block it all out.
“It was refreshing to sit down and talk to him and see how cool and calm he was. Because the hype is unbelievable. I’ve never seen hype like this. They put a barricade around our cars in the parking lot. I was like, ‘Where do I park?’ But all of that said, the kid is cool and calm and that’s refreshing for me,” said Moore.
If anyone can handle the hype that will follow him everywhere in 2020, it seems to be Rutschman. Maybe he does that well because it is not new for him. He had the hype and attention at Oregon State and he was considered the top pick in the draft all during the 2019 season.
In 2018 in college, Rutschman hit .408/.505/.628 with an OPS of 1.133 along with 53 walks and 40 strikeouts. In 2019 for the Beavers, he hit .411/.575/.751 with an OPS of 1.327 along with 76 walks and 38 strikeouts. He performed even better with all the attention and with less talent around him in the lineup.
That must have been incredible impressive to the Orioles as they scouted him and looked for a weakness that didn’t show up during his college years.
While Rutschman will play some nights next year in front of small crowds in small ballparks the expectations will always remain large. A lot will be expected and O’s fans will track his progress while they dream on a day that he’s a star in MLB.