Yep, believe it or not, there’s a scenario running around that has the Baltimore Orioles opting for a different No. 1 (due to true preference, or under-slot signing to open up money throughout the rest of the draft), the Kansas City Royals ga-ga over Bobby Witt Jr. and thus the White Sox ending up with ... oh, just the best catching candidate to arrive in the draft in years.
What follows is the writeup published very early in the Draft Prospects You Should Know series, with a cheeky little bump that acknowledges, hey, it could happen.
Baseball America 1
Adley Rutschman once was a relatively unheralded prospect from Sherwood, Ore., as he was drafted but unsigned in the 40th round by the Seattle Mariners in 2016. Perfect Game even ranked him as the 144th best catching prospect in that year’s draft.
So what’s happened in the last three years? Rutschman has improved in all facets of his game, thanks to hard work and physical maturation. His numbers rose dramatically from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Oregon State, culminating with a College World Series MVP last year. During that tournament over the span of eight games, he went 17-for-30 (.567) — 8-for-13 in the finals alone — homering twice, knocking two doubles and reaching base at a 65% clip, all while playing elite defense behind the dish.
That tournament largely put to rest any concerns scouts may have had with his bat after a difficult Cape Cod League showing in 2017, where he slashed just .164/.282/.179 over 67 at-bats. Rutschman also enjoyed an outstanding offseason with USA’s National Baseball Collegiate team in 2018 after slashing .355/.432/.516 in nine games. Rutschman’s been able to carry his success into 2019, even outperforming his numbers from last year. Here are his stats with Oregon State through June 2, 2019:
2017: 209 AB, .234/.322/.306, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 33 RBIs, 5-for-5 SB, 27 BB, 39 K
2018: 250 AB, .408/.505/.628, 22 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 83 RBIs, 1-for-3 SB, 53 BB, 40 K
2019: 182 AB, .418/.580/.764, 10 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 58 RBIs, 0-for-2 SB, 75 BB, 37 K
Rutschman (6´2´´, 216 pounds) has improved in all facets of his hitting, and currently possessing an amazing walk rate (32.4%) while striking out minimally (12.2%). It’s easy to see what all the fuss is about. MLB grades his hitting tool as 60, which may actually be a little light — it doesn’t hurt his standing that he’s a switch-hitter who’s equally dangerous from both sides. Rutschman isn’t afraid to hit the ball to the opposite field and in the gaps, but he’s equally adept at pulling the ball as well — he just hits the ball where it’s pitched and doesn’t try to do too much. His power is graded at 55, which seems reasonable considering he has yet to hit 10 homers in any individual season. However, that grade may improve later this year, as he could hit well over 20 homers before season’s end.
The only weak spot in his tool set is, unsurprisingly, speed. as MLB grades him at 40. Heck, you can’t have everything. Well, maybe he could. Rutschman was the placekicker for the Beavers during his freshman season, but decided to focus solely on baseball afterward. Perhaps he also has a future with the Bears?
Rutschman has a cannon arm, as evidenced by the fact his fastball was clocked at 94 mph in high school according to Baseball America. Rutschman’s defensive tools are off-the-charts as well, as he’s given high marks due to his agility and excellent hands. In fact, MLB gives him 60 grades for both arm and defensive ability, while Baseball America listed him as the best defensive catcher in this year’s preseason rankings. Throw in the fact that he’s a fierce on-the-field leader, and there’s really nothing not to like about him.
It’s extremely unlikely that Rutschman falls to the third pick in this year’s draft. The only way this happens would be if the Orioles decided to offer under-slot cash to a first round selection, in order to save money for later draft picks down the road; the Royals could also potentially bypass him as they may perhaps look into speedster C.J. Abrams or prep phenom Bobby Witt, Jr. Don’t count on those things happening, barring a serious injury or dramatic slump prior to the draft. If a near-miracle happens and Rutschman is indeed available with the third pick, the White Sox should snap him up immediately.
Here are three videos of Rutschman in action. The first one’s courtesy of 2080 Baseball, with him in action for the USA National Collegiate team versus Japan. The second video is found on YouTube, courtesy of Oregon State Athletics showing his 17 hits in last year’s College World Series. The final video shows him hitting a gargantuan homer against the Golden Gophers of Minnesota earlier this year, also found in YouTube. Enjoy.