Adley Rutschman’s arrival will be a 2022 highlight

Looking forward to a day when we talk about baseball more than lockouts, the most anticipated date on the calendar for the 2022 Orioles figures to be the arrival day for catcher Adley Rutschman. The day that baseball’s No. 1 prospect arrives in the majors.

Unlike some players that go back and forth and take a while to establish themselves at the big league level, Rutschman’s arrival will likely be permanent, and greatness is expected from the start. That is a lot of pressure, but it goes with being a No. 1 draft pick and No. 1 prospect.

In one sense, O’s fans have had a long wait for this. Rutschman was the No. 1 pick in 2019. In another sense, his move through the farm has been lightning fast. He has played just 12 career games at the Single-A level, counting Low-A and High-A, 80 at Double-A and just 43 at Triple-A. He has played just one full minor league season - that was in 2021 - and he has 697 career minor league plate appearances.

But he’s ready. Almost no one doubts that.

He is likely to catch more games than any Oriole at the big league level in 2022, although there are no catchers, him included, on the 40-man roster. But his day is coming and the secret is out.

Thumbnail image for Rutschman-Swings-Bowie-Sidebar.jpgRutschman’s 2021 season could not have gone much better.

He got more plate appearances (543) than any player on the Baltimore farm. He caught 80 games between the Baysox and Tides, catching almost all of the top young arms on the farm. He also made 28 starts at first base and 14 as a designated hitter. He excelled at Double-A with an OPS of .901 and at Triple-A at .896. He showed off his power, his strong plate discipline skills, his big arm, and his great defense and leadership. Other than that, though, he didn’t sell any popcorn or sodas. That we know of.

In 123 games for the two teams, he hit .285/.397/.502/.899 with 25 doubles, two triples, 23 homers, 86 runs and 75 RBIs. Along with outfielder Kyle Stowers, he was the co-Player of the Year on the O’s farm, sharing the Brooks Robinson Award.

When he was in Baltimore late in the year to collect the hardware, Rutschman talked about sharing the honor with Stowers, and maybe joining him next year in the lineup at Oriole Park.

“It’s really special. Kyle and I are super close,” Rutschman said. “And having the opportunity to play with him this year again, for the first time since 2019, it’s a blessing. We’ve had a lot of fun this year and it’s great to be able to share this with him.

“It would be awesome (to play with him here). You can’t really draw it up any better than playing with your good friends and having good people around you as you’re playing, it just makes the whole experience so much more fun and enjoyable.”

Rutschman was asked about the strengths of the O’s farm in 2021.

“I think the most noticeable thing for me has been, one, the people and, two, just the mindset that the whole organization has toward player development,” he said. “And that comes with just the process-oriented mindset that everyone has here. I really appreciate that because I feel like guys don’t get the sense of everything being such a failure. They see it as a learning opportunity. Making that switch in their mind has been huge and I think guys have really appreciated that about the staff. We have a phenomenal group of people here and I think the guys in our organization here have tremendous character, and so does everyone in the front office and the coaching staff and everyone in development. Just great people.”

Rutschman among O’s farm players with 300 or more plate appearances:

* Hits, 129 (first)
* Doubles, 25 (fourth)
* Home runs, 23 (second)
* Runs, 86 (first)
* RBIs, 75 (fourth)
* OBP, .397 (first)
* Slugging, .502 (third)
* OPS, .899 (second)

There were 28 players in the O’s minors with 300 or more plate appearances last season. Among that group, Rutschman ranked first in walk rate at 14.5 and last in strikeout rate, 16.6, meaning he was the hardest to strike out among the regulars.

What was not to like about his 2021 season?

If we need something in baseball to smile about today, it can be thinking of the day the kid plays his first major league game. We should not have to wait too long now.

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