Orioles star Adley Rutschman is expected to be one of the best in baseball. The pressure is 'more exciting than anything.'
Published in Baseball
Opening beer cans for Orioles fans during Saturday’s Birdland Caravan happy hour, Adley Rutschman got hasty, prompting a Checkerspot Brewing Company employee to jokingly remind him to make sure the patrons paid for their drinks. A nearby fan offered a reason the Orioles’ catcher should have been able to get away with it.
“He can do what he wants,” she said. “He’s Adley.”
Such a viewpoint is likely common among Baltimore’s fanbase after Rutschman’s arrival miraculously spurred the Orioles into contention. With Rutschman putting up numbers that eventually resulted in Most Valuable Oriole honors and a runner-up finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting, the Orioles played at an 89-win pace with him on their roster. They finished three games out of a playoff spot despite preseason expectations they would be the majors’ worst team for the third time in five years.
The first of those seasons netted them Rutschman, the first overall pick in the 2019 draft and soon after the top prospect in baseball. Long viewed as the player who would turn the Orioles’ rising tide, Rutschman delivered while hitting .254 with an .806 OPS and 13 home runs, setting a franchise rookie record for doubles.
Now, like his team, even more is expected of him. He’s ready to take it on.
“My goal is always to be the best version of myself, best baseball player, best human, and because of that, there’s always gonna be room to improve,” Rutschman said. “That’s the thing about baseball and life is you’re always gonna have things to improve on, and so take the offseason, work as hard as you can, and then we’ll see how this year goes.”
He didn’t have an exact answer for what the best version of Adley Rutschman is, saying it’s “something I’m always chasing.” But the version Rutschman has achieved thus far is a player who’s already considered one of the top talents in the majors heading into what will be his first full major league season.
The projection systems Steamer and ZiPS have Rutschman earning between 5.6 and 5.8 wins above replacement, respectively, totals ranking in the top 10 in baseball and a full win ahead of any other catcher. In Steamer’s view, the only players who will be more valuable than Rutschman this season are the San Diego Padres’ Juan Soto, the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge, the Seattle Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts.
The Orioles, meanwhile, are being discussed internally and externally as a playoff contender. As someone who’s faced pressure since he was a potential top draft pick at Oregon State, Rutschman said his teammates are equipped to handle it, too.
“It’s more exciting than anything,” Rutschman said. “The perspective we have is on what we can do together and just trying to elevate each other.”
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