The 2022 season will be one in which many of the most significant products of the Orioles’ rebuilding project will arrive in Baltimore, where they’ll hope to add to the stories already told between being acquired and reaching the majors.
That’s certainly the case for catcher Adley Rutschman, the Orioles’ and baseball’s top prospect.
Drafted first overall in 2019, Rutschman has been the face of the Orioles’ rebuild ever since. At last, he’ll be the face of their major league team as well, joining the club Saturday for his long-awaited debut.
Here’s a look back at Rutschman’s journey in the organization, as told by The Baltimore Sun, from the 2019 draft’s first pick up to Saturday’s first game at Camden Yards.
Orioles select Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman with top pick in MLB draft — June 3, 2019
In what executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias consistently referred to as the biggest decision the Orioles would make in his first season leading the front office, Baltimore made Rutschman the second No. 1 overall pick in franchise history. As a sophomore at Oregon State, he was the College World Series Most Outstanding Player, then starred with Team USA that summer. He won basically every top amateur award he could with a junior campaign in which he hit .411 with a 1.327 OPS.
Baltimore took him over a collection of talented players that included Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., University of California first baseman Andrew Vaughn and Vanderbilt outfielder J.J. Bleday. With the selection, Rutschman immediately became the face of the organization’s rebuild.
“I’m fortunate enough to be able to do it,” Rutschman said on draft night.
Top pick Adley Rutschman could transform Orioles with his talent, but might do more with ‘Mudita’ — June 8, 2019
As much praise as Rutschman earned for his baseball talents leading into and coming out of the draft, he was also well regarded for his leadership traits and his ability to make those around him better.
“He’s the total package,” said Paul Mainieri, who managed Rutschman for Team USA among his four decades of coaching experience. “He’s as special a person and a talent as I’ve come across in my lifetime.”
Past, future collide: Manny Machado back in town as Orioles welcome Adley Rutschman to Camden Yards — June 25, 2019
The Orioles signed Rutschman to a then-record $8.1 million bonus. The club introduced him at Camden Yards the same day Manny Machado played as a visitor at the ballpark for the first time with the San Diego Padres. Partway through the 2018 season, the Orioles traded Machado, who they selected third overall in 2010, to the Los Angeles Dodgers; he signed a $10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres the following offseason.
“Manny was a great, terrific player here for many, many years, and hopefully, sooner rather than later, we can have Adley here and see what he can do here at Camden Yards,” said Brad Ciolek, who was then Baltimore’s amateur scouting director and is now director of draft operations. “He’s basically everything you could hope for in the face of a franchise.”
Orioles promote top pick Adley Rutschman to Delmarva after hot stretch in Aberdeen: ‘You can see him settling in’ — Aug. 20, 2019
A bout of mononucleosis delayed Rutschman’s debut after he signed, but it didn’t take him long to live up to the hype. In his first professional game, he homered to open a brief stay in the then-Gulf Coast League.
Promoted to Aberdeen, then Baltimore’s short-season affiliate, he started slowly before going on a tear that concluded with a 5-for-5 showing that featured a home run. He was promoted to Low-A Delmarva for the Shorebirds’ playoff run the next day.
Orioles’ Rutschman, Rodriguez connect at Delmarva: ‘You’re looking at, potentially, the future of the organization’ — Aug. 25, 2019
Not long after Rutschman’s promotion, a pairing that has since become the top catching and pitching prospects in baseball worked together for the first time.
It wasn’t necessarily a sterling showing for Rutschman or right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, Baltimore’s first-rounder the year before, but it set the stage for a battery that should be at Camden Yards together before long.
Orioles top pick Adley Rutschman’s first pro season is over. What did he learn in the past three months? — Sept. 10, 2019
Across three levels, Rutschman hit .254/.351/.423 in his first taste of professional baseball. The experience also gave him a look at many of the other prospects the Orioles hoped to build their future around.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys here who know how to win, they know how to be in the clutch, and I think that’s going to go a long way,” Rutschman said.
Orioles catchers give their impressions of Adley Rutschman’s first camp: ‘You could tell he wants to get better’ — March 7, 2020
As the Orioles’ top prospect, Rutschman was included in 2020′s spring training mix as a nonroster invitee. He was sent down to the minor league side just after his first hit of camp fueled an exhibition rally.
During that time, he impressed the other six catchers in major league camp, all but one of whom had played in the big leagues.
“He can be the future catcher of the team for a long time,” Pedro Severino said.
Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman relishing camp at Camden Yards, and all the work he’s doing to get him there to stay — July 13, 2020
Not long after Rutschman was sent to minor league camp, the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training, thrusting the catcher’s first full professional season into uncertainty much as it did everything else.
Instead of spending his summer climbing up Baltimore’s farm system, Rutschman instead briefly was at Camden Yards, participating in the Orioles’ preseason “summer camp” before joining their alternate training site in Bowie.
“Being able to stand in the box, see big league arms, and just take it all in for the first time, it’s something you never get back,” Rutschman said of playing in intrasquad games at Oriole Park.
Orioles’ top prospect Adley Rutschman growing in unique environment: ‘We’re making the most out of it’ — Oct. 13, 2020
In that Bowie camp, Rutschman got the chance to take at-bats against many of the pitchers serving as the Orioles’ major league depth, establishing that he could hold his own when facing that level of arms and using a lost season to tinker with various aspects of his game. He carried that experience into the organization’s fall instructional camp, preaching the organization’s hitting program to younger players.
“We’re going to get through this,” Rutschman said, “and when that happens, you want to feel like you’ve gotten better.”
As Orioles top prospect Adley Rutschman grows in Bowie, his star potential is clear: ‘You’re awed every day’ — June 18, 2021
Rutschman at last began his first full season in the Orioles’ system with Double-A Bowie, getting off to a strong start while continuing to make an impression on those around him. At one point, he homered on five straight Sundays.
“He’s not one of those guys where you say he’s had a hot week or a hot month,” said Buck Britton, then Bowie’s and now Triple-A Norfolk’s manager. “It’s just steady.”
After batting practice blast, Orioles top prospect Adley Rutschman brings patience, quips to MLB All-Star Futures Game — July 11, 2021
Basically the only games Rutschman missed with an Orioles affiliate in 2021 came during All-Star week, when he participated in the MLB Futures Game, a showcase for some of the sport’s most impressive minor leaguers.
After hitting a 468-foot home run in batting practice, he was the cleanup hitter in a lineup of the American League’s top prospects.
Now ‘a step away’ from the majors, Orioles top prospect Adley Rutschman ready to grow at Triple-A — Aug. 11, 2021
As the Orioles aggressively promoted prospects throughout their system, Rutschman remained at Double-A until August, batting .274/.393/.512 for Bowie.
At last promoted to Norfolk, he caught a one-hit shutout in his Triple-A debut and closed the year hitting .312/.405/.490 for the Tides. He shared the organization’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year honor with fellow 2019 draftee Kyle Stowers.
Adley Rutschman shut down with tricep strain, making top prospect doubtful for Orioles’ Opening Day roster — March 16, 2022
As major league spring training became this year, the biggest question surrounding the Orioles was whether Rutschman would make the team’s opening day roster.
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It was effectively answered before camp even began, with Rutschman suffering a right tricep strain in a minor league intrasquad and requiring a shutdown period for recovery.
“I think it’s an extremely small blip for a guy that’s gonna have a long career,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said.
As Bobby Witt Jr. comes to Baltimore, Orioles feel they made the right pick with ‘unicorn’ Adley Rutschman — May 6, 2022
In the end, Witt beat Rutschman to Camden Yards, with 2019′s No. 2 overall pick coming to Baltimore earlier this month with the Kansas City Royals. Rutschman, meanwhile, was in the second week of his climb back up the Orioles’ farm system after recovering from the tricep strain.
He spent a week with High-A Aberdeen and a handful of days with Bowie before returning to Norfolk. With left-hander DL Hall also joining him, the Tides’ roster featured all of Baltimore’s top three prospects in Rutschman, Rodriguez and Hall.
Even with Witt reaching the majors and Oriole Park first, the Orioles had no qualms with their 2019 decision.
“We made the right pick,” Elias said.