As the 2019 MLB Draft is set to begin on Monday, June 3, it seems the first overall pick is a foregone conclusion. Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman is a heavy favorite to have his name called first by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, headed to the Baltimore Orioles farm system should he elect to sign. Here are five things to know about who could be on a track to become one of Major League Baseball’s best catchers eventually.
1. Rutschman Has Been Drafted Before
In the 2016 MLB Draft shortly after Rutschman had just graduated from Sherwood (Ore.) High School, the Seattle Mariners selected Rutschman in the 40th round, no. 1,197 overall. Rutschman opted not to sign at that time and instead began his NCAA baseball career with the Oregon State Beavers. The result of that decision makes it look like a great move, as Rutschman’s draft stock has improved tremendously in the three years since.
2. Rutschman Was Highly Decorated During College
The list of Rutschman’s accolades from his three years playing college baseball at Oregon State is quite extensive and goes way beyond 2018 national champion. Rutschman was recently named the 2019 Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year in an award that could cap off a career that also included being named the 2018 College World Series Most Valuable Player, 2019 Pac-12 Player of the Year and numerous All-America teams.
3. Rutschman Got the “Barry Bonds” Treatment Earlier This Season
On May 28, 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks walked MLB’s career home run leader Barry Bonds with the bases loaded, preferring to sacrifice a run rather than give Bonds any opportunity to do further damage. Rutschman was shown the same respect in an NCAA regional game by the Cincinnati Bearcats this spring.
In the bottom of the seventh inning of that Corvallis regional with the bases loaded and no outs, Rutschman stepped into the batter’s box to discover he would get an RBI credited to him without having to swing the bat. The Bearcats intentionally walked Rutschman, giving up a run. Rutschman would eventually come around to put his team ahead but Oregon State ultimately lost the game and was eliminated from appearing in another College World Series.
4. Rutschman is Ready to Join an Elite Club
If all the prognostications prove true on Monday and “Clutchman” – as his teammates call Rutschman – is selected first overall, he will become part of an elite group of players at his position who have that distinction.
The last catcher to be selected first overall was Joe Mauer, whom the Minnesota Twins took with the first pick in 2001. Mauer went on to become an All-Star and is a strong candidate for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Prior to that, there had been only four catchers taken first overall. B.J. Surhoff was the first overall pick in 1985 by the Milwaukee Brewers, Danny Goodwin went first overall in 1971 to the Chicago White Sox, the San Diego Padres took Mike Ivie first overall in 1970 and the 1966 draft started out with the New York Mets taking Steve Chilcott. Surhoff also went on to be an All-Star.
5. Rutschman is the Grandson of a National-Title-Winning Coach
As is often the case with high-level athletes, it’s partially in the genes and the upbringing. His grandfather, Ad Rutschman, took NAIA college Linfield to three national titles in American football and another in baseball. Rutschman’s father Randy, Ad’s son, was also a college catcher but didn’t achieve the level of success the younger Rutschman has to this point.
Although Rustchman isn’t expected to be among the players in attendance Monday, his phone should be ringing quickly after the draft gets started. If he can be as productive in the minor leagues as he was in college, he should be in the majors within a few seasons.