After another season behind the plate for the Oregon State baseball team, Orioles No. 1 overall draft pick Adley Rutschman summed up his physical state in three words during his introductory news conference Tuesday.
“I feel great,” Rutschman said.
The Orioles, in an effort to keep him feeling that way, have started to piece together their development plan for a player who immediately became the organization’s top prospect when he put pen to paper Monday.
The path they’ve laid out begins in Sarasota, Fla.
Rutschman will begin his professional career with the Orioles’ Rookie-level Gulf Coast League team, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said Tuesday, before joining the Orioles’ Short-A affiliate in Aberdeen.
Rutschman, 21, hasn’t played in a game since June 1 — two days before he was drafted — when the Beavers’ season ended in the NCAA regionals. Since, he’s been making his way around the country for various awards ceremonies, including those for the revered Golden Spikes Award and Dick Howser Trophy, with more trips still to come.
“He’s won a lot of awards this summer for his accomplishments in college, and he’s got a few more still, so we’d like him to participate in some of those,” Elias said. “That’s gonna happen later this week. And then we’re gonna send him to our spring training facility in Sarasota, Fla., join the Gulf Coast League roster, kind of a slow onboarding process, get him going after the layoff he’s had, and then I expect that he will shortly thereafter join the Aberdeen IronBirds of the New York-Penn League and start his climb through our minor league ladder.”
Elias said the organization decided to send Rutschman to Aberdeen rather than one of the Orioles’ full-season affiliates because it’s easier to move a player up than down. There’s always the possibility he advances to Low-A Delmarva or High-A Frederick sometime in 2019 if his play warrants it.
“I think we’ll let his play determine how fast he moves,” Elias said. “Every player’s different. Every first-round pick’s different. Certainly, we don’t need to start him there if we don’t want to, but I always believe in starting players, when in doubt, starting them at the lower level because it’s very easy to transfer them if they’re performing well.
“We took a lot of college players this year, and almost all of them will be starting off with that team, and we’ve got a great franchise and a great facility there and it’s really close to Baltimore, so I think there’s a lot of positives to him starting his career there.”
Regardless of what city Rutschman begins his career, he’ll move around the field. Elias and many Orioles representatives have noted Rutschman is already well-developed defensively as a catcher. And in an effort to spare his body the rigors of catching daily, he might spend time throughout the summer at first base, designated hitter and possibly other positions.
Rutschman, though, loves catching and looks forward to someday playing the position in an Orioles uniform at Camden Yards.
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“I think it’s a big part of me, just from the standpoint of the control you have behind the plate, the ability to affect so many individuals around you, handle a pitching staff, being able to command the field,” Rutschman said. “For me, that’s a position I enjoy because I’m able to have that influence on others and be a hopeful leader on the team.”