Is Adley Rutschman Already the Greatest Orioles Catcher Ever?

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Last year when the Baltimore Orioles called up Adley Rutschman to make his big league debut, his arrival signified the most anticipated prospect unveiling in many, many years for the franchise.

Rutschman proved the decision to be wise: he hit a triple in his first MLB game, and a few nights later against the Yankees he had his first multi-hit game.

In 113 games in 2022, Rutschman hit 35 doubles and 13 home runs, and even walked 62 times. His OPS in year one was 806, good enough to earn him a second-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting.

Rutschman became the first Orioles’ rookie to finish as high as 12th in Most Valuable Player voting. And though he failed to win a Gold Glove, he probably should have. No worries: the young Orioles star is bound to add one or (many) more Gold Gloves to his trophy case.

In 2023, Rutschman is showing his trademark patience at the plate, and with a lefthanded swing that reminds many of Joe Mauer, the switch-hitter is creating matchup problems for pitchers.

Fans of the Birds are crazy about their young catcher, who seems likely to make his first All-Star team this summer. It doesn’t hurt that Rutschman’s arrival has coincided with a revival for the O’s. Near the mid-point of the season, Baltimore is in second place in the tough AL East, and in position to get back to the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

The future is indeed very bright for Rutschman. But how great can he be? Could he become the best catcher in the history of the franchise? Is he possibly already in that discussion?

Who is the best Baltimore Orioles catcher of all-time?

Answer me this, baseball fans: who is the greatest catcher in the history of the Orioles?

Go ahead and noodle that one.

You may say Matt Wieters, if you’re under 25. Or maybe you go back to Chris Hoiles, who spent most of the 1990s behind the plate for the Orioles. Some old-timers may recall Rick Dempsey, or go back even further to Ellie Hendricks or Andy Etchebarren.

The Orioles started in MLB in 1954, relocating from St. Louis where the team had been known as the Browns. That means 2023 is the 70th year for major league baseball in Baltimore.

Yet, in the 69 previous years of Orioles baseball, despite great successes, the franchise has never had an iconic catcher. In fact, in all those years, only five Orioles catchers have made the All-Star team, and they’ve combined for only 11 All-Star Game nods.

Baltimore Orioles All-Star Catchers

Gus Triandos … 4
Matt Wieters … 3
Andy Etchebarren … 2
Terry Kennedy, Mickey Tettleton … 1

If you had pick a greatest Orioles catcher, you’d probably come down to one of three: Triandos, Wieters, or Rick Dempsey, who was a fantastic defender behind the dish, and played for two Orioles pennant-winning teams.

By the advanced numbers, Rutschman has already had the best single season by an Orioles catcher. In 2022, again in only 113 games, the 25-year old had a 5.2 Wins Above Replacement. No Baltimore catcher had previously had as much as 5 WAR in a single season.

Rutschman is on pace for about 4 WAR in 2023. If that happens, he will push himself to fifth all-time among Baltimore catchers. Hoiles holds the team record with 23.5 WAR as a catcher. But Rutschman could be halfway to that makr by the middle of his third season.

Obviously, Rutschman needs to play more games and more seasons to establish himself as a superstar he night become. But, he’s in a unique position to become a franchise icon. Not many franchises have such a weak spot on their all-time roster. But, for whatever reason, Baltimore has yet to have a truly great catcher.

By the way, Rutschman has already done something Cal Ripken Jr. never did: he earned a top five MVP and Rookie of the Year vote in his initial season.

How great can Rutschman be? Tell us your opinion in the comments section below.


Baltimore Orioles All-Time Team >
20 Greatest Baltimore Orioles of All-Time >

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Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes

Dan Holmes is the author of three books about baseball, including Ty Cobb: A Biography. He previously worked for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and Major League Baseball Advanced Media. He lives in Michigan where he writes, runs, and enjoys a good orange soda now and again.
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