Orioles

Adley Rutschman named baseball's best catching prospect

Orioles

Adley Rutschman has been one of baseball's best prospects since the day he signed with the Orioles after being selected with the top overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft. As a generational draftee with more hype than any since Bryce Harper in 2010, it's no surprise that Rutschman immediately established himself as one of the ten best players in the minor leagues.

That hype has yet to subside, and as MLB Pipeline continues to release its top prospect rankings position by position, Rutschman found himself in a familiar spot atop their list.

Rutschman was, unsurprisingly, the clear top choice at the catcher position. In fact, one of MLB Pipeline's lead analysts suggests he'll have a decent chance at slotting in at No. 1 in their overall Top 100 list when it's released. And through three positions, the Orioles are the only franchise to have been represented in each top 10.

It's not just MLB Pipeline that continues to be effusive in their praise of Rutschman. Baseball America gave him the number two spot in their Top 100 rankings, behind only all-world prospect Wander Franco. And according to their evaluators, it was as close as you can get.

"Rutschman is one of the toolsier prospects in the game and one of the best catching prospects we have had since at least Matt Wieters," said Carlos Collazo of Baseball America. "His offensive and defensive skills give him a chance to be a tremendously valuable player at a position where teams are rarely getting impact, middle-of-the-order bats,"

 

Rutschman was the clear number one at his position for MLB Pipeline in part thanks to his litany of tools. Among catching prospects, he has MLB Pipeline's best power tool (65 on the 20-80 scouting scale) and is tied for the best hit tool (60) and fielding (65). He is one of only two hitters to rate as a 60 or better in four of the five tools, and his lone flaw is his running - not that speed is a crucial element of a catcher's game.

Baseball America agrees again with Rutschman's unique all-around skills, mentioning he is one of just two position players with at least three tools rated 70 or higher in their own evaluations.

The superlatives are noteworthy as well - Rutschman is considered both the prospect the highest ceiling and the one with the highest floor, according to MLB Pipeline. It's a special, and rare, combination.

Of course, perhaps the most interesting point in evaluating Rutschman is what fans don't yet know. Just about his entire profile has been determined by what scouts saw from him in college. Rutschman became one of the most accomplished players in college baseball history while at Oregon State, but he has played just 27 professional games since being drafted in 2019, not nearly a large enough sample size.

His development may have been impacted more significantly than any other prospect as a result of the missed minor league season in 2020. Not only has Rutschman yet to play anything close to a full professional season, but as a catcher he also missed out on 100+ games worth of developing a rapport with the Orioles' young pitchers.

If he is as good as the consensus seems to think he is, missing out on one minor league season won't hurt Rutschman too much. But at the same time, it's difficult to tell if he would still be ranked as highly (or perhaps even higher?) if he had more at-bats on tape.

Either way, the praise is still being heaped upon Rutschman, and that won't stop until he gives scouts a reason to feel differently. For now, it seems like he's on the fast track toward being not only baseball's best catching prospect, but its best overall prospect as well at some point in the coming year.