You know the term “rebuild” that’s become synonymous with describing the Orioles? Yeah, I think we can now say that the rebuild has officially started.
Last night, it turned out that varying reports regarding the Orioles’ uncertainty surrounding the first overall selection held no water. But Beavers do swim.
The Orioles did what they needed to do. They did what they should have done. In the end, they picked Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman, who immediately becomes the literal and metaphorical light at the end of the long dark tunnel.
To say that I was conducting the Rutschman hype-train would be more credit than I deserve. I’m not as good at Twitter as my very online friend RDT, who maestro-ed the Rutschman pick on behalf of #OriolesTwitter over the past couple of months. But I definitely bought a ticket a while ago. Whatever a VIP ticket on a train is, I ante’d up for that.
Last month, I wrote why common sense would lead to the Orioles picking Rutschman, and it wasn’t just because last year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player has the mug to star in a Jimmy’s Seafood commercial or Christopher Nolan’s next $400 million grosser. His baseball tools are too great to ignore.
As a switch-hitter, Rutschman has equally-prolific swings from both sides of the plate. His power numbers surged year-to-year despite seeing fewer strikes, and there’s little to doubt in terms of his bat-to-ball skills. Behind the plate, he’s as polished in all facets of the necessary catching requisites as baseball has seen in recent memory. As a player, Rutschman has so few questions to answer, and because of his athleticism, his growth as a professional figures to be swift.
Though baseball remains the most fickle game in professional sports, Rutschman’s cemented work ethic, baseball resume, and — while it can’t be quantified — the Captain America kind of aura he carries makes him almost a sure thing.
It’s easy to say the pick was “obvious” from a distance, but didn’t it seem like it? Yeah, he was a kicker so excuse the football analogy, but if Rutschman were a quarterback with a football resume equivalent to his one on the diamond, what kind of debate would there be? Not much of one, right?
So, when there were reports that the Orioles may possibly try to “underslot” the first-overall pick and overpay elsewhere in the draft, it never seemed to make sense.
Not only did it not make sense in this draft when the Orioles were positioned to pick the clear-cut best player available, but in Mike Elias’ first draft, when the emphasis on talent acquisition is as important, a more diverse money-spending strategy seemed unnecessary.
Maybe in the summer of 2020 or 2021 will that kind of draft strategy have its benefits. That isn’t to say that the Orioles wouldn’t have liked the five-tool profile of Bobby Witt Jr. or Andrew Vaughn, who probably has the best pure swing among the available talent. With this draft being the ground floor for what hopefully becomes a more sturdy foundation, the best player available was in fact available, and there never seemed to be a doubt that he would become an Oriole.
To Dan Duquette’s credit, his recent first-round draft history looks to be taking a drastic turn. Right-handed pitcher Cody Sedlock quickly became an afterthought following ineffectiveness and injuries, but his current 1.44 ERA in over 43 innings has changed his reputation. Lefty DL Hall has only continued to mature at a level conducive to his talent, and is there a hotter pitcher on the planet right now than last year’s first-round pick Grayson Rodriguez?
Even so, this night had a different feel to it compared to when Duquette was in charge. There was anticipation and excitement. Unfortunately and familiarly, a sense of dread. But in the end, the pick felt collective. It was united.
We’re a ways away from the bad days slowly morphing into good. With the big club already pacing itself for this same polling position again next summer, good days will continue to be few and far between. But yesterday...yesterday was a good day.