Ryan Wormeli

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Orioles fans are thrilled to see Adley Rutschman play with one of the best minor league teams

Orioles fans are thrilled to see Adley Rutschman play with one of the best minor league teams

A light drizzle began roughly two hours prior to Adley Rutschman’s Delmarva Shorebirds debut, lasting maybe 10 minutes. Just after, a rainbow appeared beyond the outfield wall, perfectly arching from the foul pole in left to the one in right.

You could hardly ask for a more fitting metaphor for the top overall pick in the MLB Draft, the 2019 rainbow to the 2018 storm that was the Orioles finishing with the worst record in baseball.

The catcher’s promotion was met with considerable hype from an Orioles fanbase desperate to support its stars of the future. Rutschman is one of the most-lauded prospects to enter the minor leagues in the last decade, and his potential future impact isn’t lost on anyone who cares about the team.

The enthusiasm surrounding everything Rutschman does was evident throughout the stadium Wednesday night, with several fans already proudly wearing Rutschman jerseys from his previous stop in Aberdeen. The buzz permeating through the stadium was palpable from the moment the gates opened an hour before first pitch.

Rutschman was the first player from either team out on the field, 45 minutes before the first pitch. It was an opportunity to soak it all in for a player who has rarely had a chance to stay under the radar.

The inevitable raucous applause did come eventually, whether it was during his introduction, first at-bat, or the first baserunner he gunned down from behind the plate. The long autograph lines and standing ovations will be a staple at every stop.

He’s going to have to work his way through most, if not all, levels of the Orioles farm system, and that means an opportunity for fans from all over Maryland to see the face of the rebuild in person.

For some fans, while Wednesday was a chance to see Rutschman in Delmarva for the first time, it wasn’t their first time seeing him anywhere.

“It’s been amazing, coming out and seeing him,” said Andrew Low, a local fan who already owns a Rutschman Ironbirds jersey. “I went out to his first two games in Aberdeen, crowd turnout has been fantastic at all the games he’s been in.”

“It’s pretty great that everyone’s getting more interested in the young guys coming up, and I think everyone’s excited for the future of the Orioles,” Low continued.

Rutschman joins one of the few Orioles affiliates apparently not in need of any help. The Shorebirds have already made history this season, setting a team record for wins while preparing for a playoff run. 

Delmarva has been led by a terrific young pitching staff, full of potential future big leaguers. It’s a group Rutschman, as a catcher, will begin developing a rapport with from day one. His effort was already apparent in inning one, as he ran to pat his starting pitcher on the back walking off the field after the top of his very first inning with the team, and each subsequent inning as well.

Of course, it’s the looming postseason that makes Rutschman’s promotion all the more exciting.

“To be a part of a team that’s going to the playoffs for sure, and doing very well right now, I’m very fortunate to be a part of this team,” Rutschman told Will DeBoer, the voice of the Shorebirds, prior to his first game.

Low echoed this sentiment from the fan’s perspective.

“Oh yeah, of course it is,” the longtime fan said when asked how cool it will be to see Rutschman in the postseason so soon. “He’s going to get the experience in the playoffs that he wouldn’t have had down at Aberdeen, and I expect him to do good things in the playoffs.”

Wednesday night was another win in the books for the Shorebirds, and the ability to play with a team experiencing success was not lost on Rutschman.

“It’s awesome,” Rutschman continued with DeBoer. “Winning is extremely fun and shooting for that championship is absolutely the best thing you can go for in baseball. It’s the reason that you play.”

“Winning is extremely fun” is probably the truest quote Rutschman will ever give in his career, and it will be music to the ears of O’s fans everywhere to hear.

But what’s also fun is getting a glimpse of the future, and that’s exactly what Wednesday night was. Rutschman will have better outings than 0-2 with two walks, and he’ll have worse. But throughout it all, fans are going to shower him with praise.

Fittingly, the pregame rainbow did not mark the end of the storms on Wednesday. Lightning flashed behind the clouds in right field for much of the night. The Orioles aren’t out of their storm just yet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t chances to enjoy the rainbows along the way.

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Orioles' Adley Rutschman is one step closer to moving from face of the rebuild to face of the franchise

Orioles' Adley Rutschman is one step closer to moving from face of the rebuild to face of the franchise

Adley Rutschman is one step closer to playing for the Orioles. Shout it from the rooftops, Baltimore.

The top overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft began his career with the organization with a brief stint in the Gulf Coast League before quickly heading to Aberdeen. After a few weeks with the short-season affiliate, Rutschman finds himself on the move again.

His latest promotion will take his talents to Delmarva, to join a record-setting Shorebirds squad gearing up for a long postseason run.

Rutschman’s final game with the Ironbirds was fitting: a 5-for-5 night in which he was just a double shy of the cycle, capped off by a beautiful moment with a young fan. His next challenge will come in the form of the playoffs.

In Delmarva, Rutschman will experience postseason baseball as a professional for the first time, alongside many teammates who might find themselves in Baltimore with the catcher one day. Grayson Rodriguez stands out as the Orioles’ second-best prospect, behind only Rutschman himself, and as a pitcher, he’ll work with the top pick more closely than others.

It’s an exciting pair of players for fans to watch, especially when the two form the battery in the same game. The future of the Orioles will never be more obvious than those nights.

Many franchises emphasize the value of a young core not just learning to win, but learning to do it together. Rutschman will certainly have that chance to close out 2019.

It’s also exciting for Orioles fans just to see how quickly Rutschman has adapted to the professional game. Plenty of highly-touted prospects across the league struggled in their first exposure to professional pitching, yet Rutschman has handled every step of the way with aplomb.

In all likelihood, Rutschman’s stop in Delmarva will be a short one as well. The postseason begins in early September, and by 2020 the catcher will almost certainly be in either Frederick or Bowie as he continues to move up the minor league ladder.

Every step will bring more and more enthusiasm as Rutschman moves from the face of the rebuild to face of the franchise. The front office is keen on letting him experience every level of the organization, but their patience hasn’t dampened the optimism of the fans.

Adley Rutschman has already starred for Aberdeen, and one day he’ll star for the Orioles. For the next few weeks, however, the O’s will be plenty happy seeing him star in the middle of a Delmarva playoff run.

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Evaluating the state of 2019 MLB awards races: Mid-August update

Evaluating the state of 2019 MLB awards races: Mid-August update

It's the dog days of August in Major League Baseball, and most teams have fewer than 40 games lest in the season. Still, that's plenty of time to shake things up in most awards races. Let's take a look around baseball to see who should be favored in each of the major races in both leagues.

AL MVP

1. Mike Trout, Angels
2. Alex Bregman, Astros
3. Matt Chapman, Athletics

Even with some minor shuffling behind Trout, it's the same three names here. Rafael Devers would be an obvious choice in the top three as well if he didn't struggle so mightily in the field. Chapman's all-around game keeps him easily ahead of the Red Sox third baseman in terms of both WAR and these rankings.

Again, though, this award is over. Lock it in. Write it in stone. Mike Trout is the 2019 American League Most Valuable Player. No one else is even in the same ballpark (pun very much intented) as maybe best baseball player to ever walk the Earth, who just so happens to currently be in his prime. 

NL MVP

1. Cody Bellinger, Dodgers
2. Christian Yelich, Brewers
3. Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves

For the second straight season, Acuna is enjoying an otherworldy August, the kind that lets us squint and see a player who can potentially challenge Trout for "best player in the universe" status. It could happen, one day. But today is not that day.

Per bWAR, the gap between Mike Trout and the next-best player in the AL is 2.3 Wins Above Replacement. In the NL? Bellinger's lead over Yelich is 2.1.

Yelich's unbelievable power surge has colored the fact that Bellinger has been, far and away, the best non-Trout player in the sport in 2019. His incredible defensive metrics, combined with a true offensive breakout, show us a player who will win multiple MVP awards before all is said and done. Bellinger could already hit for power against righties. Now? He leads baseball in home runs against lefties, while playing the best outfield of any fielder in baseball, and still crushing righties.

Last update, I said this is a two-horse race, but that wasn't fair to Bellinger. It's his award to lose, and the only chance Yelich has is finishing with a historic home run total. Even then, it probably won't be enough.

AL Cy Young

1. Justin Verlander, Astros
2. Charlie Morton, Rays
3. Mike Minor, Rangers

Verlander remains the obvious favorite, thanks to his strikeouts and sterling ERA (first and second, respectively, in the American League). It doesn't hurt that he's doing it all for baseball's best team, even despite a career-high in home runs allowed.

Morton, of course, is the one who actually leads the AL in ERA, in addition to currently placing top six in WHIP, wins, WAR, and strikeouts. Minor was left off the last update, but it's difficult to ignore his 7.3 bWAR (no one else in the AL even has 6 WAR), and his adjusted ERA+ leads the league.

In fact, Verlander, Morton and Minor are top three, in varying orders, in several of Baseball Reference's more advanced pitching metrics, including adjusted ERA+, adjusted Pitching Runs, adjusted Pitching Wins, Base-Out Runs Saved, Base-Out Wins Saved, Situational Wins Saved, and Win Probability Added. Most of those statistics are pretty in the weeds, even for sabermetrically-inclined baseball fans. But it's telling that the same three names continually pop up across the board.

NL Cy Young

1. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dodgers
2. Jacob deGrom, Mets
3. Max Scherzer, Nationals

If and when Max Scherzer returns to the mound, he may be able to make this a true race again, but for now, Ryu looks to have a comfortable lead thanks to historic run prevention in an era defined by run scoring.

Let's give a shout out to deGrom too, who moves into the second spot with Scherzer's continued absence. It's well-earned, as the Mets ace leads the National League in strikeouts, is fourth in ERA and has allowed just one home run in his last seven outings at the time of this writing.

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Yordan Alvarez, Astros
2. John Means, Orioles
3. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays

This is our biggest change from the last awards race check-in. Brandon Lowe and John Means led AL rookies in Wins Above Replacement at the time of the last update, but their continued struggles/absence has created enough of an opening for a new arrival.

We were deservedly called out for leaving Yordan Alvarez off a few weeks ago, which we did simply because of his lack of games played compared to the other contenders. We won't be making that mistake again.

Alvarez has been one of the best hitters in baseball, rookie or otherwise, since making his delayed debut in June. As a hitter who came up hot and has yet to slow down for the best team in baseball, it's fair to project forward a bit rather than look back on stats accumulated to this point. If Alvarez finishes the season with anything even remotely close to his outrageous current 196 wRC+, then he's going to run away with this award, plain and simple. 

Means' WAR is still more than a full win higher than Guerrero, but it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Vladito jump into one of the top two spots before the year is up.

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Pete Alonso, Mets
2. Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres
3. Mike Soroka, Braves

Well, this stinks. Tatis stays in the top two for now on the basis of his unbelievable rookie season so far. But with his season-ending injury, it appears this award has become Pete Alonso's to run away with as he continues to set home run records. It's unclear who will ultimately replace Tatis in the top three, but for now, no one else is particularly close, even in a truncated year.

AL Manager of the Year

1. Rocco Baldelli, Twins
2. Kevin Cash, Rays
3. Bob Melvin, Athletics

The biggest question here is how much voters might knock the Twins if they end up losing the AL Central to the Indians after jumping out to such a big early lead. Will voters choose to appreciate the surprising run in Minnesota, looking past a late season "collapse"? It's hard to say for sure. Any of these three still could come away with the award, considering where each sits in the standings compared to modest preseason expectations.

NL Manager of the Year

1. Bruce Bochy, Giants
2. Brian Snitker, Braves
3.Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks

Just like in the American League, the top three here haven't changed, and each looks pretty set in some order. But unlike with the AL race, we are going to reorder these three, swapping Bochy and Lovullo.

It makes sense, considering the Giants currently sit higher in the standings. And more and more it feels preordained for future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy to win the Manager of the Year award in his final season, as he rides into the sunset of retirement.

Snitker remains an intriguing possibility as well, though the Braves likely need to maintain their grip on the NL East for him to actually win.

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