Former Oregon State Beaver Adley Rutschman just capped off a spectacular rookie season with the Baltimore Orioles. In his first year in the majors Rutschman slashed 254/362/805. He finished the year with 101 hits, 35 doubles and 13 home runs, along with 42 RBIs.
It was an exciting year for fans of the former Beaver, so we decided to reach out to an expert on the Orioles to get an insider’s perspective. Mark Brown over at Camden Chat, SBNation’s home for Orioles coverage, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.
John: Rutschman was highly touted coming out of college, and much of the Orioles coverage I’ve read over the past few years has been speculation on when he would be could and should be called up. Now that he’s arrived, how has he measured up to the years of anticipation?
Mark: There was an incredible amount of hype about Rutschman, so much so that it almost made me nervous. The last time the volume was so loud when the Orioles had a big catching prospect was after they drafted Matt Wieters in the first round in 2007. Wieters, like Rutschman, was a switch-hitter who was supposed to be able to make a big impact on offense and on defense. He had a nice career but simply was not the kind of franchise-altering superstar that was predicted. Could Rutschman possibly live up to similar hype?
Other than a few weeks where he had to adjust to MLB pitching, the answer seems to be yes. He finished the season as the team’s best player at getting on base and was second on the team for batting average and slugging percentage. His arrival coincided with substantial improvement of a pitching staff that didn’t change its personnel very much from before he was playing. He did seem to make a difference. The team was 16-24 when he was called up to MLB. They were 60-47 in games that he started.
John: Do you have any concerns with Adley going forward? Are there any areas of his game you think he needs to work on in particular?
Mark: The only thing that anyone should be concerned about with Rutschman going forward is the same thing that should be a concern in the back of anyone’s mind when they have a star player on their favorite team, where you worry about them getting hurt. Not because you think they will, but just because it would really suck if they did. I think he’s answered any other question there might be about his play. For the sake of nitpicking, I will note that the switch-hitting Rutschman was substantially worse batting against left-handed pitchers, with only a .174/.287/.265 batting line. Just one of his 13 home runs was hit as a righty batter. If he could raise his right-handed batting performance closer to the level of his fantastic lefty batting, that would take him even higher.
John: The Mariners locked up fellow rookie of the year candidate Julio Rodriguez to an expensive long term contract. Do you think the Orioles should make a similar offer to Rutschman?
Mark: There are a lot of people in the Orioles fan world who saw that Rodriguez contract and wanted to see something similar for Rutschman. I think that’s as much because of what a big contract extension like that symbolizes more than anything: The team has arrived in the playoff picture and they’re planning to stay that way for a long time. I don’t expect the Orioles to end up doing something similar with Rutschman, though. That’s because of their difference in age rather than any difference in talent. Rodriguez is three years younger than Rutschman.
The Mariners needed to make a long contract offer to Rodriguez to guarantee that he’d be on their team for all of his 20s, which analysis has shown are generally an MLB player’s most productive years. Since Rutschman was a college player who didn’t debut until three years after his draft, he was already 24 when he debuted and the Orioles already have Rutschman for the rest of his 20s. They might need to guarantee him money through age 35 to tempt him to sign a big contract. That would feel good for Orioles fans but I don’t know if it would be wise.
John: Baltimore was close to a playoff spot in an absolutely stacked AL East. Do you think the Orioles can get back to the postseason in the next few seasons? I’d hate to see Adley become another Mike Trout.
Mark: When the Orioles started succeeding in the second half of this season, GM Mike Elias said, “It’s liftoff from here.” He had been cautiously avoiding setting any expectations up to that point, so it was notable when he was suddenly talking about this as a team that’s arrived in contention and staying there. I don’t know what Elias has in mind to set up the O’s as perennial contenders. The team has a lot of position player prospect depth but not as much pitching depth. He’s going to need to either sign or trade for some better pitchers, and he’s going to need some of these position players other than Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson to arrive in MLB and perform well.
I believe in Elias’s ability to do this, but it is something I’m anxious about at the same time because he’s going to have to make some big bets and I hope he ends up being right about all of them.
John: Finally, if you could pick one moment from this past season to make someone an Adley Rutschman fan, what would it be?
Mark: I challenge anyone to watch this GIF and not immediately be prepared to run through a brick wall for Adley Rutschman.
ORIOLES WIN!— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) July 26, 2022
here's your nightly Adley gif pic.twitter.com/47HBA8L4hS
Once again thanks to Mark over at Camden Chat for lending us his time and expertise. Be sure to check them out during the next baseball season to see how Adley and the rest of the Orioles are doing.