If there was one word to describe Adley Rutschman during his introductory press conference at Camden Yards Tuesday afternoon, it was confidence.
The young catcher, selected by the Orioles with the top pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, exuded confidence while speaking with the media alongside GM Mike Elias. It wasn’t cockiness or brashness, and Rutschman made it clear he knows his work is far from over.
Simply, he knows what it’s going to take to succeed, and he knows he has the skills and attitude required to do so.
“Lot of pressure coming into the draft this year as the projected #1 pick,” Rutschman explained when asked about the pressure he has as the face of the Orioles rebuild. “I think I handled the pressure well. It’s about sticking to your process and becoming the best baseball player you can be.”
“He’s done a lot in his life and career so far to earn this opportunity. I’m confident he’s going to seize it,” the Orioles GM said.
Sticking to the process is a fitting line from Rutschman, who will start lower in the minor league system than many fans expected. But first, the Orioles are going to let him reap the benefits of his incredible collegiate career.
“He’s won a lot of awards this summer for his accomplishments and he’s got a few more still, so we’d like him to participate in some of those,” Elias told reporters when asked about Rutschman’s schedule for the rest of the year. “We’re going to send him to our spring training facility in Sarasota, and then he will join the team in the Gulf Coast League. Shortly thereafter, I expect him to join the Aberdeen IronBirds there and start his climb up the minor league ladder.”
Aberdeen, the short-season affiliate of the Orioles, as Rutschman’s initial destination comes as a surprise to some.
Considered the most advanced catching prospect to enter the draft in more than a decade, Rutschman is very polished both at the plate and behind it. One of the Orioles scouts even told reporters there are some who think he could head to the Majors *right now*.
That would be a little aggressive, but it seems reasonable to think Rutschman would find success with Low-A Delmarva or even High-A Frederick right away. Instead, the front office wants to bring him along slowly but surely.
“We will let his play determine how fast he moves. Every player is different, every first round pick is different,” Elias explained. “I always believe in starting players at the lower level because it’s easy to transfer them if they’re performing well...Great facility there, lots of positives to starting his career there.”
If Rutschman dominates Aberdeen early, as many expect, he probably won’t stay there very long. But after just a few months of the Mike Elias regime, it’s obvious he values patience over aggressive call-ups, as he’s kept top prospects at Double-A and Triple-A early in 2019, and allowed 2018 first-round pick Grayson Rodriguez to obliterate the competition in Delmarva all season long.
There’s certainly no incentive to rush him. Rutschman now sees an opportunity for new career goals.
“It was always a goal of mine to be in this position,” the catcher said. “I never expected it, I respected the process of getting here. Now it’s about setting new goals and expectations. I’m excited for the opportunity to go out and play with baseball my job.”
It’s obvious why Rutschman is excited to begin his career. But is he also excited to make his first big purchase after reportedly receiving a record-breaking $8.1 million bonus?
“I’m pretty comfortable with my Honda Civic.”
Comfortable with his car, and comfortable with the expectations he now faces. Rutschman is ready to get going and excited to see where the journey takes him.
So are the front office, teammates, and just about everyone else in Baltimore.
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