When will Rutschman debut in Baltimore?
The Baltimore Orioles were “fortunate” enough to pick first in the 2019 MLB draft and with that pick, the Orioles selected the consensus #1 player on the board in catcher, Adley Rutschman. The Oregon State product has put up monster back to back seasons, including winning the College World Series (and the MOP award) in 2018. The selection was deemed a no brainer by many, with some “experts” saying Rutschman is the best draft prospect since Bryce Harper. Whether you agree with that or not, it is still exciting to get a player of his caliber, especially at such a premium position. We now turn our attention to how quickly he signs and where he starts his professional career. Personally, I believe he signs quickly and will start in Delmarva. I don’t see the point in him starting in Aberdeen against younger competition. He is an advanced bat coming from a big time program and conference. He should be able to handle the higher level. The more important question is, how quickly can we expect to see him in Baltimore?
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My personal thoughts are that if he isn’t an option by the middle of 2021, he will have either been injured a lot or just has been a disappointment in his development. I see him in Frederick and Bowie next year and then, in 2021, he can start in AAA and see how things go. He is an advanced player, both offensively and defensively and I just don’t see the need for him to stay in the minors for that long, especially since he is a catcher. Catchers tend to put a lot of wear and tear on their bodies, so I don’t want him wasting too many innings in the minors doing that. For service time concerns, I am making sure he isn’t on the Opening Day roster in 2021. He can be up later in April though. We will have to see what the new CBA does with the service time issues or if the Orioles just decide to give him a 7-8 year deal right off the bat to alleviate any of that but, for now, the goal should be to have him in Baltimore sometime between late April and the AS break in 2021.
After having those initial thoughts, I wanted to see if I was crazy in having him up here within 2 years. I went back and looked at the last 10 drafts and looked at the top 10 picks in each draft. I picked out the college positional talent. The HS players tend to spend a little more time just because of their age, although there are obviously exceptions. I deemed the top 10 to be the guys that were considered the most advanced in those particular drafts. Now, we know that isn’t always the case. Sometimes a team overdrafts (see the Orioles for much of the 2000s) or teams just miss on guys but I needed a cutoff point somewhere and the top 10 seemed to be a good place to do that. From 2009-2018, there were 27 college bats drafted in the top 10. For the purposes of this article, we will look at 26 of them, since Kyler Murray decided to play for the Arizona Cardinals instead of the Oakland As.
The 27 players were then broken into 4 different categories. You have busts, serviceable MLers, solid MLers, stars and too soon to tell. My hypothesis being that if you are an advanced bat and you are really good, you don’t need to be in the minors for that long and if you are in the minors for too long, you are either hurt or just a bust. Let’s start with 2009. In 2009, Dustin Ackley and Jorge (Tony) Sanchez were taken in the top 10. Ackley started his pro career in 2010 and immediately went to AA for 82 games and AAA for 52 games. In AA, he only had a 773 OPS but he was aggressively moved anyway. In AAA, playing in the great hitters league of the PCL, he put up a 777 OPS. The Mariners sent him to AAA to start the 2011 season and he played there for 66 games and put up a 908 OPS. He finished that season with the ML team and in 90 games, put up a respectable 765 OPS and looked like he could be a fixture in Seattle for years to come. However, 2012 saw him crash down to earth and put up a 622 OPS in a full season. He began 2013 back in AAA but played most of the season in Seattle. He also played 2014 in Seattle. His OPS in each of those years was sub 700. He was then dealt to the Yankees, where he accomplished very little. He was last seen in the Los Angeles Angels organization in AAA for 2017 and 2018. He put up a 6.9 fWAR in his career, most of that being driven by his first 2 ML seasons. Sanchez started playing right in 2009. He played at 3 different levels, ending up in the Carolina League that year. He spent all of 2010 in the Carolina league. In 2011, he played the whole year in AA. He put up a 658 OPS that year and started the 2012 at the same level before going to AAA that year as well. He has spent some time in the majors but basically, he has been a journeyman minor league player. He has 144 career at bats in the majors and over 2800 in the minors. 2009 saw 1 MLer and 1 bust drafted. The MLer got to the major leagues within 2 years from being drafted.
In 2010, Christian Colon and Michael Choice were top 10 picks. Colon started in the Carolina league in 2010. Despite only putting up a 706 OPS, the Royals moved him to AA the following season. He put up a 667 OPS that year. He wouldn’t make the majors until 2014, where he had 45 at bats. He spent the next few years going back and forth between the minors and majors but he never made any kind of an impact. He is now with his 4 organization in 3 years. He has 349 at bats in the majors and over 2800 in the minors. Choice would also play in 2010. He mostly played in A ball and put up an OPS over 1000 in just over 100 at bats. In 2011, he put up a 918 OPS in the California league but he did strike out 134 times in 467 at bats, so perhaps Oakland held him back because of that? He would spend 2012 at AA. He had a 779 OPS that year and the strikeouts were still very high. He wouldn’t get to the majors until 2013, where he appeared in 9 games for Oakland. He was traded to Texas in 2014. He appeared in 86 games for Texas and put him a 570 OPS. By 2015, he was with the Indians organization. He ended his career playing for the Brewers and Orioles organizations. He had 272 ML at bats and over 2500 MiL at bats. Suffice it to say, 2010 brought us 2 busts and both took 3+ years to get to the majors.
In 2011, Anthony Rendon and Cory Spangenberg were taken in the top 10. Spangenburg played 72 games in 2011 and played both levels of A ball and had a respectable 837 OPS combined. He spent the entire next season in A+ and put up a sub 700 OPS. In 2013, he repeated A+ for 54 games and then was moved to AA, where he put up a 697 OPS. In 2014, he got to play 20 games for the Padres. He would play the next 4 seasons mostly in SD and this year, he is in the Brewers organization. He has put up a 3.9 fWAR in his ML career thus far. Rendon started his pro career in 2012. Due to injuries, he only played 43 games that year but he did play at 4 different levels, with most of those games being in AA. In 2013, he would play 33 games in AA and 3 games in AAA. He played 98 games in the majors that year. When healthy, he has been a fixture for the Nationals ever since. He has put up a 28.4 fWAR so far, including 3 6+ WAR seasons and another one over 4 WAR. He only played in 78 MiL games before playing in the majors. 2011 brought us a MLer and a star. The star barely played in the minors.
In 2012, the only top 10 college bat was Mike Zunino. Zunino got into 44 minor league games in 2012. He played 29 games in A ball, where he put up an OPS over 1200. He would then be moved to AA for 15 games and he put up a 974 OPS in that SSS of AA. In 2013, Seattle started him in AAA for 52 games. He would then play 52 games for the Mariners that year. He has spent most of his career since then in the majors although he would play 79 games in AAA in 2016. Seattle dealt him to TB before this season. He has put up a 13.3 fWAR so far. Like Rutschman, he was a C with an advanced offensive and defensive (not as good as Adley though) profile, playing at a top program within a top conference. He was in the minors for less than 100 games before making his ML debut. Not a star but a solid MLer.
In 2013, we saw 3 college bats, Kris Bryant, Colin Moran and Hunter Dozier, go in the top 10. Moran saw his first minor league time in 2013. He only appeared in 42 games at A ball and had a respectable 796 OPS. He would be moved to A+ ball in 2014, where he played 89 games before going to AA. He was a mid 700s OPS guy that year. He would play all of 2015 in AA. He saw his first ML time in 2016, albeit it was just 9 games and 23 at bats. Due to injuries in 2017, he would only play in 89 games, although only 7 of them were in the majors. He was dealt to Pittsburgh for the 2018 season. He got over 400 at bats for the Pirates. He had an OPS just under 750 and an fWAR of .7. He is having a little better year this year but looks to be the same time of guy. Dozier played 69 games in 2013, ending his season in A ball. He would start 2014 in the Carolina league and put up a solid 826 OPS in 66 games. He would move to AA, where he would struggle to put up an OPS over 600. He spent all of 2015 and the beginning of 2016 in AA as well. He would be moved to AAA in 2016 and finally he saw some time in the majors, albeit only 19 at bats. Injuries cost him most of his 2017 season (he appeared in 33 games at 3 different minor league levels that year). He would start 2018 in AAA but he appeared in over 100 major league games last season. This year, he is finally breaking out, at age 27. He has a 2.3 fWAR and currently has a 987 OPS. Kris Bryant would appear in 36 minor league games in 2013, ending his year in A+ ball. 2014 saw him split time between AA and AAA, where he would destroy both leagues. For service time reasons, he spent the first 7 games of the 2015 season in AAA and then came to the Cubs for good. He has put up a 25.3 fWAR so far in his career. His path to the majors is the similar path I am advocating for Rutschman. He is obviously a star. Dozier and Moran are, if I want to be generous, MLers. Moran is more of a bust but he is up and starting, so I will give him the MLer title. Moran and Dozier took a while to get to the majors though.
In 2014, Kyle Schwarber and Mike Conforto were taken in the top 10. Schwarber would play 72 games in the minors that year, ending in A+ ball. He would put up a combined OPS over 1000 between 3 levels. In 2015, he would play 75 games in the minors between AA and AAA. He would again put up an OPS over 1000. He would play 69 games for the Cubs that year and put up an 842 OPS. He got hurt in 2016 and basically missed the whole year. He has been a fixture in their lineup since then. He puts up a good OBP and shows some power. He is struggling this year so far, after putting up a 3.2 fWAR last year. Conforto only got into 42 games in A ball in 2014. He had an 851 OPS that year. In 2015, he was moved to A+ ball to start the year and after 46 games, he was sent to AA. He played in Binghamton for 45 games and ended the year with the Mets, playing in 56 games. He had an 841 OPS that year. He has been a solid MLer since then. He has put up an fWAR of almost 12 in his young career and has a solid 831 career OPS in a hitter’s park. I wouldn’t consider either of them stars but they are solid major leaguers and both moved quickly.
In 2015, Bregman, Benitendi and Happ were all top 10 picks. Bregman played in 66 games minor league games that year. He started in A ball and ended in A+ ball. He would start 2016 in AA and play 62 games there. He would then be moved to AAA, where he would play 18 games before being called up to Houston for 49 games. He has been a fixture at 3B since then and has put up a 15 fWAR so far, including an MVP caliber season last year. Seeing as Elias was with the Astros when Bregman was drafted, that route to the majors is an obvious one to look at. (Delmarva and Frederick this year, Bowie and Norfolk next year). The difference is that the Os aren’t contending and Houston was, so Rutschman isn’t likely to be brought up next year because of service time, although I do think it’s possible. Benintendi also saw minor league time in 2015. He would appear in 54 games between A and A+ ball. He would start 2016 in A+ and move to AA after just 34 games. He ended the year playing 34 games in Boston and has been a starter ever since. He has put up an 8 WAR so far and is headed towards star status. Ian Happ also saw time in 2015 at the minor league level. He played 67 games at A and A+. He would start 2016 at A+ and would move to AA after 69 games. He would play in just 26 games in AAA in 2017 before playing in 115 games with the Cubs that year. He also played in 142 games in 2018 at the ML level. He is back in AAA this year, despite being a solid ML contributor so far. He is really blocked in Chicago and the Cubs should be looking to trade him. He has star ability/potential but that won’t happen in Chicago. He still made it up to the majors, despite being blocked, with just over 200 MiL games under his belt.
In 2016, 3 college bats went in the top 10, led by Nick Senzel. Senzel played at rookie ball and A ball in 2016. He appeared in 68 games. In 2017, he started the year at A+ and after 62 games, he was moved to AA. He put up a 973 OPS in AA. Injuries held him back in 2018, as he only appeared in 44 games, all in AAA. He would start this year in AAA but after 8 games, he has been moved to the majors, where he is the everyday CFer. The defensive numbers don’t like him but he has a solid 781 OPS. If he isn’t hurt in 2018, he is likely up that season. He is obviously in the too soon to tell category. Corey Ray appeared in 60 games in 2016 with the Brewers A and A+ teams. He put up a combined OPS of 677 that year. He only played 3 games in A ball. In 2017, he would go back to A+ and spent the whole year, putting up a 678 OPS. Milwaukee would move him to AA in 2018. He spent the whole year there and put up an 800 OPS. This year, he is in the PCL and has a sub 600 OPS. We will see what happens but he is trending towards a bust, although mlb.com rates him as the #88 prospect. Zack Collins only appeared in 39 games in 2016 (although he is a C). He would play 36 of those games in the Carolina league. He would start 2017 in the Carolina league and play there for 101 games, where he would put up an 808 OPS. He would be moved to AA for 12 games. In 2018, he would spend the whole year in AA and put up a 786 OPS. This year, he is in AAA and is off to an excellent start, with an OPS just under 900, albeit he is in the PCL. Is Collins a guy to look at? A rebuilding organization slowly moving a guy with a solid defensive and offensive profile? Doesn’t sound like he has elite level talent though.
The 2017 draft saw 3 college bats drafted. One of the, Keston Huira, has already been in the majors. He has put up some big minor league numbers and just got his first cup of coffee at the ML level. Problem with Huira is that he isn’t good defensively. Milwaukee has to figure out what to do with him. Pavin Smith is struggling somewhat. He played in 51 games at A ball in 2017. He had a solid 816 OPS and that included a 401 OBP. He was in A+ ball in 2018 and was only able to put up a 735 OPS. He still showed a good OBP but the average went from 318 to 255 from A to A+. This year, he is in AA and has put up a 767 OPS. He isn’t showing much power, as his career slugging is only 404. He is in that danger area of being a bust. Adam Haseley is a well-liked prospect but he isn’t lighting the world on fire. He started 2017 in rookie ball and was quickly moved to the NY Penn league and ended up in the Sally League. He was barely able to get his OPS over 700 between the NYP and Sally league. The next year, he was in A+ and in 330 at bats, he put up a 758 OPS. He was then moved to AA where he put up a very nice 880 OPS in 39 games. This year he started at AA and put up an 827 OPS. He has recently been moved to AAA. His career numbers look solid enough but they don’t jump off the page either. I think he has solid ML potential but probably not a star. Obviously, these guys are all too early to tell.
The 2018 draft was full of college bats early. A total of 6 (including Murray) of them went in the top 10. Catcher Joey Bart, the #2 pick, started 2018 in rookie ball and after 6 games he was moved to A ball. He put up a 983 OPS there. He is at A+ this year and has been hurt for most of the season but he just recently came back. He is progressing nicely. He did the equivalent to the Aberdeen/Delmarva path but again, he only appeared in the Aberdeen equivalent for 6 games (and only put up a 711 OPS). Alec Bohm played in the GCL and NYP to start his college career. He played a total of 40 games there. He started this year in the Sally league but after putting up a 1036 OPS in 22 games, he was moved to A+, where he currently has an 872 OPS. Nick Madrigal started in rookie ball last year but after only 5 games, he was moved to the sally league and then the Carolina league. He only put up a total of a 702 OPS between those leagues. He is in the Carolina league this year and so far, he has an underwhelming 723 OPS. Johnathan India also started in rookie ball last year, for 17 games. He would go to A ball for 27 games after that. This year, he is in A+ and has a 772 OPS. Travis Swaggerty started last year in the NYP league. After 36 games, he moved to the Sally League for 16 games. Despite only putting up a 451 OPS, the Pirates put him in the FSL this year. So far, his OPS is under 700 this year. A trend you see for all of them is that they were all started at a level below A ball, even if it was just for a few games. Is that a new trend? Will the Os start Rutschman at Aberdeen for a few games just to get his feet wet? I suppose if they do it for a few games, I am ok with it but he really should be at Delmarva, at worst.
To recap, of the 26 players discussed here, we have 3 busts (Sanchez, Colon and Choice), 5 serviceable MLers (Ackley, Spangenberg, Moran, Dozier and Happ), 3 solid MLers( Zunino, Schwarber and Conforto) and 4 stars (Bryant, Rendon, Bregman and Benintendi). The rest are in the too soon to tell category. However, of all these guys, it certainly seems like the stars and solid MLers moved fast (to the majors within 2 years of being drafted) and I see no reason not to expect the same thing from Adley Rutschman. If he doesn’t, it’s more likely the O’s have nothing more than a serviceable ML player (at best) and while that still holds some value, that isn’t anything close to what you want to get out of the first pick.
Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570.
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