The Orioles hold the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 draft and would like to do as well with it as their 2019 selection of Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman.
The 23-year-old began the season at Double-A Bowie and reached Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 10. The canceled 2020 minor league season did not deter him from looking like baseball’s top prospect.
Rutschman led all minor league catchers with 543 plate appearances and hit .285/.397/.502 with 23 home runs in 123 games. He drew 79 walks against 90 strikeouts. He appeared in the Futures Game.
“I found that every level has been a jump, for sure,” Rutschman said. “It’s one of those things that you wouldn’t notice right off the bat, I think, but as you play in more games you start to kind of reflect on your time at the previous levels and you compare it.
“And I think that’s where you start to think the differences just in the little things and the day-to-day reflecting back.”
Rutschman’s .899 OPS led Orioles minor leaguers who qualified, but he seems just as proud that he ranked first in plate appearances.
“It was a goal of mine coming into the season to stay healthy,” he said. “I’d like to think that is a result of offseason work and staying in shape. Also just doing little things day in and day out to make sure I could be 100% ready to play every single day. That’s been a huge positive and a huge win, I think.”
Rutschman’s .397 on-base percentage trailed only the Reds’ Daniel Vellojin among minor league catchers, though Vellojin played exclusively at Low-A.
Whether on Opening Day or not, Rutschman will make his major league debut in 2022.
Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias noted Rutschman’s limited Triple-A experience but added, “Once you’re in major league spring training, you’ve got a chance to show your stuff and make the team.”
— The Orioles chose righthander Grayson Rodriguez as their minor league pitcher of the year. The 2018 first-rounder went 9-1, 2.36 with a 0.83 WHIP and 161 strikeouts in 103 innings between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie.
— Triple-A Norfolk manager Gary Kendall and pitching coach Keenie Steenstra, Florida Complex League manager Alan Mills, Aberdeen hitting coach Tom Eller and Low-A Delmarva hitting coach Patrick Jones won’t return in 2022.