The true measure of your character has yet again been severely tested this year if you are an Orioles fan. Birdland has not been a happy place as the team is currently mired in the muck of the AL East and has the dubious distinction of owning the worst record in Major League Baseball.
If we were to scan the MLB odds we would find that even the best online sportsbooks are no longer offering odds on the O’s to even win the division, let alone the pennant, or the World Series. Such lofty aspirations are the province of other franchises, certainly not the one in Baltimore.
But rather than pile on, let’s look for some tidbits to see if there is a silver lining on the horizon or anything we, as true-blue Orioles fans, can cling to as we patiently wait for the merciful end to a spectacularly hellacious 2021 campaign.
Grayson Rodriguez – Pitcher
Drafted: Baltimore Orioles 1st round, 11th overall 2018 MLB Amateur Draft
Weight: 220 pounds
Date of Birth: 11/16/1999 Houston, TX
Grayson Rodriguez is not only a top prospect in the Orioles farm system but a top-five pitching prospect in all of baseball. That is pretty heady stuff for the 21-year-old out of Central Heights High School in Nacogdoches, Texas but he has earned all of the accolades and then some. Rodriguez can paint the corners with a fastball that reaches triples digits, but his four-pitch arsenal also includes a change-up, curveball, and slider.
Currently pitching for the Bowie Baysox, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate, he has pitched a combined 85 innings as of this late August writing between Bowie and the Aberdeen Ironbirds (A+), boasting an 8-1 record with a 2.54 ERA, a 0.85 WHIP, and averaging seven strikeouts per start. Rodriguez will spend the rest of the year toiling in the minors and his ascension to Triple-A Norfolk is all but a foregone conclusion.
However, the O’s would be wise not to rush Rodriguez to the bigs. Confidence is everything and right now Rodriguez has it by the bundle, and Baltimore intends to keep it that way.
Adley Rutschman – Catcher
Drafted: Baltimore Orioles 1st round (1st) of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft from Oregon State University
Weight: 220 pounds
Date of Birth: 2/6/1998 Portland, OR
When you are drafted first overall, it is fair to say the projections are through the roof, and right now the switch-hitting catcher out of Portland, Oregon is on track to fulfilling those lofty expectations. Rutschman was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk and he delighted the crowd when he slammed a solo shot and went 3-for-4 in a 9-5 loss to the Charlotte Knights.
It’s uncertain how much work Rutschman will get as the Triple-A season winds down but he appeared confident in the path the Orioles’ coaching staff and management have set for him thus far.
“I trust that the Orioles have a plan for me, and they’ve had a plan for me all year, so I trust whatever they decide to do,” Rutschman said on a Zoom call to reporters recently. “It’s worked out so far, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of this organization, so I know they have a plan, and I’m just looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.
“I think you’ve got to celebrate all the small victories, and getting promoted is obviously a huge step and definitely a great experience,” Rutschman said. “I’m very blessed to be in the position I’m in right now, so very happy to be here and to be a step away.”
One of Rutschman’s many attributes is his ability to connect to the pitcher and develop a working chemistry in a short period of time. That’s good news for his batterymates at Norfolk because they will need to get on the same page as Baltimore’s newest “Can’t-Miss Kid”.
“The biggest thing with pitchers is just knowing the guys, creating that relationship and just knowing how they want to attack guys, what their strengths, weaknesses are, things that I look for in them and in their delivery or whatever it is, whatever cues that they particularly have for themselves,” Rutschman said. “After each inning, it’s a new conversation, new things to be addressed and so we’re just talking a lot, and those conversations just help create those connections and just that feel for what we’re doing when we get out on the field.
“There’s definitely some uncomfortability that comes with new situations and new settings,” Rutschman said, “but it’s all part of the process and all part of the learning experience.”
Depending on who you ask, Rutschman is either the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in all of baseball but right now it’s all just potential waiting to be fulfilled when he one day steps to the batter’s box at Camden Yards.