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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

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Mike Elias expects big things from Adley Rutschman in 2020 and beyond

As excited as Orioles fans are for the future of the franchise, and as desperate as they are for any glimpses of that future in the form of their top prospects, it doesn’t guarantee they’ll see Adley Rutschman in the big leagues any time soon.

The number one overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Rutschman is one of the most highly-touted prospects to enter the draft in years, and as an experienced college catcher, is the prototype of a fast-moving player through the farm system.

According to the man tasked with ultimately making those types of timeline-based decisions, Rutschman will play the biggest role in determining how quickly he advances.

“Well it’s his first full season in pro ball, so it’s hard to put too much expectation on that,” General Manager Mike Elias cautioned to NBC Sports Washington when asked about the hype surrounding his first-ever draft pick. “It’s about starting in A-ball, or High-A, or wherever we decide to start him, and having success. And once he has success, we’ll get him moving.”

Elias told reporters at the Winter Meetings that Rustchman would have a chance to play with the big league club at Spring Training next season, but that will be more about the learning experience and less about a true opportunity to break camp with the team.

It’s hard to imagine a player like Rutschman not having success. He showed flashes of his talent across three lower levels of the Orioles’ minor league system after signing last summer, ultimately landing with the Delmarva Shorebirds.

The skills necessary for success, both on and off the field, were readily apparent to Elias and the Orioles front office throughout the draft process.

They say timing is everything, and Elias considers the Orioles very lucky to have earned the top pick in a year with a player like Rutschman.

“I think we were very fortunate that we had the number one pick in a year when Adley Rutschman was in the draft,” he said while praising the future face of the franchise. “He fits the type of player that we’re looking for perfectly, being an impact hitter but also a really good defensive catcher and team leader type. So it’s a perfect guy to sort of kick off this whole era of our rebuild, and I think it’s going to be fun seeing what he does in our minor league affiliates this year.”

Of course, Rutschman isn’t the only young player fans will be keying in on this season. Austin Hays is one of the more exciting young players in the organization, and he will enter Spring Training as the favorite for the everyday job in centerfield. If the gifted outfielder can stay healthy, he will be given every opportunity to solidify himself as the centerfielder of the future.

“He’s what we call in the scouting parlance ‘tooled out’,” Elias described when asked about Hays’ highlight-reel plays late in the 2019 season. “I mean he can run, he can really throw, he’s got power, all the physical capabilities. And he’s shown that when he’s healthy he can hit at the Major League level too.”

Of course, injuries have been the one thing that can stop Hays early in his promising career. 

“Health has been the issue for him,” Elias continued. “He’s had two injury-plagued seasons in a row, but when he came up at the end of last season he was playing with energy, he was healthy. So that’s all we want to see for him, but I think he’s an impact centerfielder and a huge part of our next good team.”

The next good Orioles team is still a few years away, but the pieces are starting to come into place. Not every top prospect will pan out -- there’s no such thing as a sure thing when it comes to minor league players -- but the Orioles are stocking the organization with talented, hard-working players.

Looking ahead to another long season in 2020, Orioles fans will have to look beyond the win-loss column to find signs of hope. If things go according to Mike Elias’ plan, Rustchman and Hays should provide plenty of moments worth getting excited.

Rutschman’s time is coming. For Hays, the future is now. For both, the eyes of Baltimore are upon them as the franchise enters the next era of Orioles baseball.

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Report: Orioles, Wade LeBlanc agree to minor league deal

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Report: Orioles, Wade LeBlanc agree to minor league deal

The Baltimore Orioles have agreed to a minor league contract with left-handed pitcher Wade LeBlanc, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Tuesday. LeBlanc reportedly would make $800,000 if he were to crack the major league roster.

The 35-year-old has played 11 seasons in the majors, most recently with the Seattle Mariners in 2018 and 2019. He had a career year in 2018, going 9-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 32 appearances, 27 starts and a career-high 162 innings pitched. LeBlanc regressed last year, however, finishing with a 5.71 ERA in 26 appearances with eight starts.

If LeBlanc can find his form from two years ago, he'll help an Orioles staff that finished last in ERA (5.59) in 2019 and bottom four in wins, strikeouts and WHIP.

LeBlanc began his career with the Padres from 2008-11. He also has spent time with the Marlins, Astros, Angels, Yankees and Pirates.

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Adley Rutschman in the top 5 headlines four Orioles in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects

Adley Rutschman in the top 5 headlines four Orioles in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 prospects

MLB Pipeline released its Top 100 prospects for 2020 and four players in the Baltimore Orioles’ system made the list. As expected, catcher Adley Rutschman, the top overall pick in the 2019 draft, checked in as the Orioles’ top prospect and No. 4 in the league.

Rutschman recently received a non-roster invitation to the Orioles spring training, where he will get a taste of Major League competition. While the 21-year-old isn’t expected to make the club out of spring training, MLB Pipeline anticipates a 2021 big league arrival for Rutschman.

After the Orioles picked Rutschman No. 1 following a prolific career at Oregon State, the catcher played five games in the Gulf Coast League, 20 games at short-season Single-A level with Aberdeen Ironbirds and 12 games with the low-Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds. He compiled a .254 average over 130 at-bats with four home runs and 26 RBIs in his abbreviated first professional season.

With Rutschman, Baltimore has a potential transcendent player that can emerge as the face of the franchise as the team continues to rebuild.

But the Orioles’ farm system is deeper than just Rutschman — in fact, it’s currently the strongest it has been in years.

Last year, Baltimore had three players on the Top 100 list — the most since MLB Pipeline adopted that format in 2012. An additional player on this year’s list provides tangible evidence the commitment to rebuilding is paying dividends.

Grayson Rodriguez, the team’s 2018 first-round selection, earned the No. 36 spot on the list. Rodriguez pitched a 2.68 ERA in 20 games at low-Single-A Delmarva. Rodriguez was a co-recipient of the Orioles’ Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year with Michael Baumann. MLB Pipeline projects the right-hander to arrive in the big leagues in 2021.

DL Hall, a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher, was ranked the No. 69 prospect in the league. Hall was a 2017 first-round pick out of high school and pitched last year at advanced-Single-A Frederick. In 19 games and 17 starts, Hall had a 3.46 ERA and struck out 116 batters in 80.1 innings. The Orioles ended Hall’s season in August as he dealt with arm soreness.

The last Baltimore prospect to make the list was Ryan Mountcastle, who was the 2019 Independence League Most Valuable Player and Orioles’ Brooks Robinson Player of the Year after a standout season with Triple-A Norfolk. The infielder hit for average (.312) and for power (25 home runs) while driving in 83 runs in 127 games.

Mountcastle, who was No. 94 in the rankings, is the only Top-100 prospect MLB Pipeline expects to join the Orioles in the 2020 season.

Rutschman, Rodriguez and Hall all made Baseball America’s Top 100 prospect list as well, checking in at Nos. 5, 35 and 47, respectively.

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