Adley Rutschman may wind up sticking and becoming a star behind the plate, but the Baltimore Orioles are open to him playing other positions.
With the No. 1 pick in this year’s MLB draft, the Baltimore Orioles did what was expected and took Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman. Arguably the most-touted draft prospect since Bryce Harper in 2010, and no worse than the third-best catching prospect to come along in the last 20 years, Rutschman has a bright future.
That said, the rigors of catching wears down a body over time. Even Joe Mauer and Buster Posey, the aforementioned highly-touted catcher prospects, had to move to first base on at least a part-time basis (full-time in Mauer’s case, due to a concussion).
Orioles general manager Mike Elias is not anticipating any trouble getting Rutschman signed before the July 12 deadline. But it’s what else he told Joe Trezza of MLB.com that will spark some interest and intrigue.
"I’m going to have to sit down and talk to him and see how he wants to approach this summer. For us, from a developmental standpoint, the at-bats are going to be more important. His receiving is so polished that I don’t see us doing a lot of work on that. By the end of the year, it became so apparent to us that this was a really special bat, a really special hitter. If he meets expectations offensively, it may be a discussion of how to pace him from a physical standpoint."
Rutschman did play some first base at Oregon State, and he’s regarded as athletic enough to play there. One of the corner outfield spots or third base seem like possible options, too.
A lot of MLB prospects are drafted at a position they played in high school or college and quickly moved to another spot. Not many of them are as touted as Rutschman, but Harper was a catcher all the way along before the Nationals drafted him No. 1 and instantly made him an outfielder.
Donning the “tools of ignorance” on a full-time basis is not generally a path for someone to carry a long and fruitful Major League career into their 30s. The Orioles have to be open to other positions for Rutschman, and they clearly are, even if he ultimately catches for 8-10 years and makes a transition after that to extend his career.