As Yankees post gap between Orioles and AL East top, dominant minor league night shows Baltimore’s bright future

Nick Vespi played with Adley Rutschman, so of course on his first day in the majors Nick Vespi was asked about Adley Rutschman.

“Adley is awesome,” the Orioles rookie southpaw said. “He’s exactly what the Orioles want him to be, and I’m thrilled he’ll be here soon too.”

Vespi is not alone in this feeling. Rutschman’s arrival date has never been officially put on a calendar, but it has long been circled as the Orioles’ rebuilding day, a sign that his efforts were worth it.

That message, however, has been bubbling under Camden Yards for years, with Tuesday perhaps one of the biggest examples.

One night, the New York Yankees handed the Orioles a fifth straight loss, and many of Baltimore’s top prospects shone in the upper minors. Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and Kyle Stowers — the Orioles’ top three picks in the 2019 draft, Mike Elias’s first as executive vice president and general manager — all made it through. The organization’s top prospect Rutschman and Baseball America’s ninth-ranked Stowers hit two runs for Triple-A Norfolk, Rutschman dropping his bat at 112.6 mph while Stowers ran a throw of 415 feet. Henderson, fourth in the system, homered twice for Double-A Bowie, one home run and one the other way.

Rutschman, a Baltimore wide receiver who took first place overall in that 2019 draft, likely would have been behind the plate on Tuesday in Baltimore if not for the right triceps strain he suffered at the start of the leagues spring training. majors. Instead, he was in Charlotte, North Carolina, to catch No. 2 prospect Grayson Rodriguez for the Tides. Hailed as the best pitching prospect in the game, the 22-year-old showed why, striking out 11 in 5 1/3 scoreless innings, getting seven swings and missing both his switch and slider while getting his fastball above 99 mph, according to Statcast. He threw a season-high 87 pitches, coincidentally the same number as the No. 8 right-hander Kyle Bradish hit in his last start with Norfolk before the Orioles promoted him last month.

Bradish, however, showed on Monday that those players arriving, even if they do so in chorus, won’t suddenly tie the Orioles with the Yankees, who climbed to the top of the American League East by winning 22 of 26 games since dropping a rubber game in Baltimore a month ago. The only one of the Orioles’ top 10 prospects they’ve promoted so far, Bradish allowed four runs and 11 base runners in 4 1/3 innings in Monday’s series opener, his fourth start in career after knocking out 11 St. Louis Cardinals last week. But adding more pieces of the agricultural system, ranked among the best in baseball, can only help.

Rutschman’s home run was one of three fly balls he put in play at 99 mph or more on Tuesday; Only Ryan Mountcastle, who last season set the franchise rookie record for home runs, has produced more such hard-hitting contacts in a major league Orioles game this season. In three starts with Rutschman catching him, Rodriguez struck out 24 in 15 2/3 innings, allowing one run. No. 3 prospect DL Hall has retired more than 40% of the batters he’s faced during the Orioles’ rise in the system, with Rutschman behind the plate for each of his four starts and potentially again when he pitches for the Tides on Friday. Seven of Baltimore’s top nine prospects are Double-A or higher.

That Rutschman isn’t already in the majors is worth questioning, despite coming off a week in which he went 3 for 21 for Norfolk and only caught days once. consecutive since he joined a subsidiary. The date the Orioles get an extra year of team control based on Rutschman’s time in service has already passed, although Rutschman could make that moot by arriving, living up to the hype and finishing in the top two. of the rookie of the year vote.

But he has to get to Baltimore first. He will at some point, and with Tuesday as proof, there are more to come. All of this rebuilding, from the time Elias promised an “elite talent pipeline” at the start of his term, has been forward-looking. Nights like Tuesday show how close he is to being the present.


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