Image credit: Adley Rutschman (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
After a sensational performance last year in the College World Series that saw him earn Most Outstanding Player honors and led Oregon State to the national title, catcher Adley Rutschman came into this season with all of baseball watching him. Those in the college game wanted to see how he would respond to taking over as the Beavers’ unquestioned leader after the veterans from their national championship team had moved on to pro ball. Those in pro ball were closely watching him as a potential first overall pick in the draft.
The pressure didn’t bother him. Rutschman never wavered and he went wire-to-wire as both college baseball’s best player and the draft’s best prospect. A week ago, the Orioles made him the first overall pick in the draft. Now, Rutschman wins Baseball America’s College Player of the Year award for his sensational all-around season.
Rutschman hit .411/.575/.751 with 17 home runs, 76 walks and 38 strikeouts. He leads the nation in on-base percentage and walks, ranks fifth in batting average and sixth in slugging percentage. He averaged 1.33 walks per game, the most since Florida’s Brad Wilkerson did so in 1998, the height of Gorilla Ball. Those impressive offensive numbers came while he was playing excellent defense behind the plate for the Beavers and was named the Pac-12’s co-defensive player of the year.
Rutschman also left his mark on the Oregon State record book. He set the program’s career walks record (156), ranks second in RBI (174), third in runs (151) and is in the top 10 of nearly every major offensive category. He became the first Beaver to be drafted first overall, surpassing the likes of Michael Conforto and Nick Madrigal as the highest drafted player in program history.
Rutschman said it was the kind of career he dreamed of having when he committed to Oregon State.
“It’s something you dream of and hope happens when you come to Oregon State,” Rutschman said. “I remember watching Conforto and you want to be that guy who has a huge impact. Having that opportunity is a true blessing.”
Rutschman is the fourth catcher to win Baseball America’s Player of the Year award, joining Florida’s Mike Zunino (2012), Florida State’s Buster Posey (2008) and Georgia Tech’s Jason Varitek (1994). He is the first Oregon State player to win the award and the first Pac-12 player to do so since UCLA righthander Trevor Bauer in 2011.
Oregon State interim head coach Pat Bailey, who has known the Rutschmans since he was in high school and recruited Adley to Corvallis, said it has been an honor to coach him.
“I am fortunate, and I am blessed to be given the opportunity to coach Adley Rutschman,” Bailey said. “I’m a lucky man because he’s made me a better person as well. Just by his example, by the person that he is.”
Rutschman made his mark on college baseball, winning everything there is to win. His ability as a player was unparalleled in the country this spring, but his legacy as a winner and a leader will stand the test of time.