MLB Prospect Watch: Adley Rutschman is helping the rising Orioles and living up to the hype

Here’s a question that would have been silly to ask in early July: Can Adley Rutschman top Julio Rodriguez for the American League Rookie of the Year award?

At the time, Rutschman was a month into his major league career and fighting. He had come out of June hitting .220/.287/.407 with three home runs in 32 games. Rodriguez, by contrast, had spent the entire season in the majors and had compiled a .272/.333/.466 slash line with 13 home runs in 77 games. No one questioned Rutschman’s future, but it seemed unlikely that he would break a sweat on Rodriguez.

Since then? Rutschman has shown why CBS Sports ranked him the top prospect in the sport before the spring. He has hit .284/.439/.451 with 13 extra-base hits and more walks (27) than strikeouts (20) in his last 32 games. He has been one of the key drivers behind the rise of the Orioles. Rodriguez has also performed well, hitting for an .884 OPS, but injuries have recently limited his availability, allowing Rutschman a chance to get close — and remember, when it comes to awards, it’s all about the stats. counting.

There’s no easy way to judge the actual distance between the two players in the eyes of voters, but one way to measure these sorts of things is to look at the gap in their various Win Over Replacement metrics. Namely, Rutschman is 0.4 wins behind in the calculations of Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs; however, he is still more than a win by Baseball-Reference’s framework. There is time for those marks to change, but it seems fair to write that Rodriguez remains secure as the current favorite for the award.

Of course, none of this detracts from what Rutschman has done over the summer, and it’s a testament to his recent tear that even he’s a topic worthy of consideration. What’s more important than some hardware is that he is and continues to prove that he is capable of serving as a well-rounded backstop, face of the franchise.

Rutschman has mostly checked those boxes of late. At the plate, he has shown a keen eye and an ability to make contact, often of the line drive variety. Rutschman has struggled as a right-handed hitter (his OPS from him from the left side is .952, as opposed to .498 from the right side), and his power numbers aren’t exactly where you’d expect them to take advantage of him. . brute force. It should be noted that both aspects could be a byproduct of a small sample size: For example, he has had fewer than 100 plate appearances against lefties to date. However, it’s worth wondering if Camden’s redesigned left-field dimensions have anything to do with his relative power outage: His ISO on the road is 80 points higher than at home, again, on a smaller sample. Either way, we’re not too worried about those blemishes just yet.

Behind the plate, Rutschman has left no doubt about his defense. He was always thought of as a general outfield guy who can handle a pitching staff. His catching and shooting skills have justified the hype about him. He ranks eighth in the majors in above-average added framing runs, putting him in the company of the likes of Sean Murphy and Yasmani Grandal. Rutschman’s pop time to second base — that is, the time it takes him to catch the ball, transfer it, and then throw it to the infielder running the base — ranks in the 88th percentile, according to Statcast. Most stolen bases are taken from the pitcher, not the catcher, and Rutschman seems more than capable of keeping his end of the bargain, as long as his pitcher gives him a chance.

Add it all up, and it stands to reason that this won’t be the last time Rutschman (or Rodriguez, for that matter) competes for an award.

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