Advertisement

A peek into Adley Rutschman's future: Breaking down the short list of top-five catchers before Orioles' No. 1 pick

In taking Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with Monday’s first overall pick of the Major League Baseball draft, the Orioles added a potent switch-hitting bat at a position that has rarely made its way into the draft’s top five selections in the past two decades.

Paired with Joey Bart, the San Francisco Giants’ No. 2 overall pick in 2018, the Orioles’ drafting of Rutschman marked the first time since 2007-09 that a catcher was among the first five players off the board in consecutive years. The outcomes of those three picks — the Orioles’ Matt Wieters, the Giants’ Buster Posey and the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Tony Sanchez — are examples of the wide-ranging results of highly drafted catchers, of which there have been eight since the Minnesota Twins took Joe Mauer with 2001’s No. 1 pick.

Advertisement

From Mauer to Bart, here’s a look at the catchers drafted in the top five since 2000, a group Rutschman joined Monday.

2001: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins, No. 1 overall

Before Rutschman, Mauer was the most recent catcher to go first overall, but he remains the only backstop to go in the top five out of high school since 1995. Mauer, a Minnesota native, was in the majors by 2004, beginning a career as a six-time All-Star, five-time Silver Slugger winner and three-time Gold Glove winner. Mauer is the only catcher in American League history to win a batting title and the only one in MLB history to win three. After a series of concussions, the 2009 AL MVP moved to first base permanently in 2014 and retired after last season.

2005: Jeff Clement, Seattle Mariners, No. 3 overall

Clement won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation’s top collegiate catcher and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award for the top amateur at the University of Southern California, but he never found the same success professionally. He got a short stint in the majors in 2007 and spent 2008 as a backup catcher. After the Mariners traded him to the Pirates in 2009, he transitioned to first base, where he played in spurts in 2010 and 2012. Clement ended an injury-filled career before the 2014 season as a .218 hitter across 152 games.

2007: Matt Wieters, Orioles, No. 5 overall

If the Orioles drafting a switch-hitting college catcher sounds familiar, they did it 12 years ago in taking Wieters out of Georgia Tech. After he hit .355/.454/.600 with 27 home runs across two minor league levels in 2008, Wieters was regarded by many outlets as the top prospect in baseball. He made his debut the next year and received his first All-Star nod in 2011, one of four as an Oriole. He joined the Washington Nationals in free agency after the 2016 season, ending his time in Baltimore with 117 home runs (67 coming from 2011-13) and a .256 average. After two years with Washington, Wieters entered Tuesday with a .973 OPS as the St. Louis Cardinals’ backup catcher.

2008: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants, No. 5 overall

Posey represents perhaps the ideal outcome for Rutschman. In 2010, he earned National League Rookie of the Year honors while guiding the Giants to a World Series title. After losing most of the 2011 season to an ankle injury caused in a home-plate collision, he returned to be the NL MVP and win another championship in 2012. The Giants won a third World Series in five seasons in 2014, with Posey as a central force in all of them. He’s faced questions about a position change throughout his career and dealt with a handful of concussions, but Posey, a six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner, remains the Giants’ centerpiece behind the plate at 32 years old.

2009: Tony Sanchez, Pittsburgh Pirates, No. 4 overall

The highest draft pick in Boston College history, Sanchez reached the majors with the Pirates in 2013, but he played only 51 games for them in three seasons before they designated him for assignment. After minor league stints with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Giants and the Los Angeles Angels, Sanchez got one major league plate appearance with the Atlanta Braves in 2017, striking out. He’s spent the 2019 season with the Texas Rangers’ Double-A affiliate.

2012: Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners, No. 3 overall

Zunino enjoyed a superstar career at the University of Florida, going to the College World Series all three years and winning the Dick Howser Trophy, Golden Spikes Award and Johnny Bench Award as a junior. Despite the power he displayed with the Gators still being prevalent, he’s struggled to make contact consistently at the major league level. He has three 20-homer seasons, but he’s a career .207 hitter. The Mariners traded him to the Tampa Bay Rays this past offseason.

2014: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs, No. 4 overall

The Cubs selected the University of Indiana product for his bat, one that produced 30 homers for them in 2017. But that was also the last year he caught, primarily playing left field since. Although he caught for only 25 games, his bat has generally made him a worthwhile pick, especially in the playoffs. He set a record for home runs in a single postseason by a player age 22 or younger with five in 2015, passing Miguel Cabrera, and returned from an ACL tear to hit .412 in the 2016 World Series as the Cubs ended their 108-year drought.

2018: Joey Bart, San Francisco Giants, No. 2 overall

If not for the Detroit Tigers drafting Auburn right-hander Casey Mize, Bart and Rutschman could’ve been back-to-back No. 1 catchers. Bart is the heir apparent to Posey in San Francisco or at least the player who will push Posey to another position. Bart signed a $7.025 million signing bonus, the largest ever for a position player, and then hit 13 home runs in 45 games for the Giants’ short-season Single-A affiliate. He missed time this year with a broken hand suffered on a hit-by-pitch, but returned from the injury this week.

Advertisement
Advertisement