It’s an interesting coincidence that the Orioles, who took Matt Wieters with their top pick 12 years ago, hold the First Overall pick this year. Rutschman is a strong contender for #1 overall this year and there are a lot of similarities with Matt Wieters. Well, a lot of similarities in their games, Rutschman isn’t nearly as big as Wieters, coming in at 6’2” 215 lbs (Wieters being more in the 6’5” 230 lbs range). He’s a switch hitter and 4-tool player (true to the Catcher stereotype he’s a solidly below average runner, though, fortunately, not slow enough to be a problem on the basepaths). Is Rutschman worth the O’s spending another pick on a Catcher? Is there any way he drops to 14 (barring injury or full collapse, no, but I always start my previews with my favorite player)?
Starting off on his Defense, most reports seem to have his defense as currently average with future potential ranging from above average to potentially double plus. He’s already a good blocker, but he does stab a bit as a receiver, though he doesn’t let the glove travel after receiving, so he could develop into a very good pitch framer with a little more pro coaching and work. He is athletic, having played QB in High School and been the OSU Kickoff specialist his Freshman season, along with also Pitching in High School (touching 94 as a Senior). His overall athleticism does suggest he can develop further behind the dish.
As suggested by his Pitching velocity from High School he does have an above average to plus arm. He seems to be well regarded as a leader, per reporting surrounding the Beavers run to the College World Series last year. A postseason when he won the nickname “Clutchman” and set an NCAA record for hits in a single postseason. On a team with multiple First Round talents, Rutschman was the MVP.
As a hitter, he has two swings, so first I’ll look at his Right Handed swing. I’m only sharing one video this time, because it is excellent and includes everything (including Defense). His Right Handed game swing starts at the 1:25 mark in the video (video from Baseball.)His stance is slightly open (he typically closes it when he strides into his swing), with good balance and he maintains his eye level very well. There’s a lot of loft in this swing and he does a great job of opening his front foot and releasing his hips to get around on the ball. He uses a small kick-slide as his timing mechanism, which should also allow him to tap into his power (though his game power is currently fringe average he does have plus potential with his bat speed and swing path). He does have some vertical bat wiggle in his set up. I’m not personally a fan of that adding complexity to his swing and a little length, but his hands are fast, so it hasn’t really hurt him.
His Lefty swing I don’t like quite as much (starts at the 0:15 mark). Again, he has a slightly open stance, except he doesn’t close it as well as he does on the Right side. This could make him a little susceptible to fastballs outside. He also consistently rolls his front foot, because he doesn’t open his front as well, which can rob power. His kick-slide otherwise looks the same and he does a great job of keeping his eyes level. The swing again has great loft and speed and he doesn’t have the vertical bat wiggle in his timing. I think this swing has potential to be his better side and plenty of guys roll that front foot their entire hall of fame career as a pro. I just get a bit nervous about a Catcher who is going to be flexing and moving so much weight on that joint on Defense, rolling the ankle 15-20 times a game sometimes.
Barring huge changes this year for the negative or a significant injury, the O’s have a slam dunk here, to my eyes. Take the guy who gets the Wieters and Posey comps, who performed better under pressure (for whatever that’s worth), who has a BB rate 5 percentage points higher than his K rate and who bring rare high quality switch hitting from the Catcher position.