Baltimore Orioles
Why Orioles' Adley Rutschman is the best catcher in Major League Baseball
Baltimore Orioles

Why Orioles' Adley Rutschman is the best catcher in Major League Baseball

Updated May. 4, 2023 1:37 p.m. ET

As he approaches the one-year anniversary of his call-up to the majors, Adley Rutschman has proven to be one of the game's best catchers.

FOX Sports MLB analyst Ben Verlander is ready to take off that qualifier, though. On Thursday's episode of "Flippin' Bats," he explained why the Baltimore Orioles' budding star has taken the mantle as the best catcher in baseball.

The most notable reason why Verlander believes that Rutschman is the cream of the catching crop is the turnaround the Orioles have made since he was called up, ending their five-and-a-half-year stretch as one of the worst teams in MLB.

"When Adley Rutschman came up, you can point to that day as the day the Baltimore Orioles turned around," Verlander said. "Hardly ever can you point to an exact point when an organization turned around. But with Adley, the prized prospect that had all the talent and all the hype in the world, you can point to the day he came up as the day it all turned around. 


"Last year, the O's were 16-24 when he got called up and were in last place. They went on to go 67-55, which is an 89-win pace, for the rest of the year and were in the playoff hunt until the last weekend of the season. This season, entering Wednesday, the O's were 20-9. So, the O's are 87-64 since Adley came up into the big leagues."

Orioles' Adley Rutschman is the best catcher in MLB

Ben Verlander sounds off on why he thinks Baltimore Orioles superstar Adley Rutschman is the best catcher in all of Major League Baseball.

Rutschman's bat was a big reason for the turnaround, especially as 2022 went on. 

Following the All-Star break last season, Rutschman hit .275 with an .861 OPS to go along with eight homers in 67 games. He continued his hot streak to end last season in the opening weeks of the 2023 season, hitting .313 with a .888 OPS and four homers in 30 games. 

"He went 5-for-5 to start the season on Opening Day in Fenway Park," Verlander continued. "He was the youngest player in Orioles history to hit a home run on Opening Day since Cal Ripken Jr. Offensively, last year, he was remarkable. He was a top-20 hitter in the game of baseball from June 11 on. Just take out the first rough couple of weeks of his career. 

"He comes up and there's a lot of hype. It took him a couple of weeks to get into his groove. But from June 11 on, Adley Rutschman was second in WAR behind only Aaron Judge, who we all know what he was doing last year."

The thing that impresses Verlander the most is Rutschman's ability to perform well while being a switch-hitter. He said the Orioles catcher has "pretty much got four jobs in one," between catching, running a pitching staff and switch-hitting. 

"They're two different swings and I try to treat them as different swings," Rutschman said on his preparation as a switch-hitter. "You've got to balance out your workload because you wanna mange your swings. Some days, right hand needs a little more love and other days the left hand needs a little more love. You try to find out what works for you on a daily basis to try and get your head and swing in the right spot to go out and compete."

Verlander noted how Rutschman has been a massive improvement over other Orioles catchers recently in framing and blocking. 

"Last year, according to Statcast, he was a plus-four in the framing category," Verlander said. "What does that mean? Well, to contrast, his teammate last year, Robinson Chirinos, was negative-14. The season prior, the Orioles' catchers combined to be the worst in baseball at negative-17. Adley is plus-four, which means he's helping his pitchers be better and get more calls behind the plate, which is all you want as a pitcher."

Orioles Adley Rutschman's call to the big leagues, first MLB Opening Day

Ben Verlander and Baltimore Orioles superstar Adley Rutschman discuss how he got his call to the big leagues and his first Opening Day experience.

In terms of blocking, Rutschman helped the Orioles' blocks above average soar from being the worst in 2020 to being the second-best in the league in 2022. 

"Last year, the Platinum Glove winner in the American League, Jose Trevino, had 15 blocks above average. Adley Rutschman, with less time in the big leagues, had 18 blocks above average," Verlander added. "J.T. Realmuto, who was considered to be the best catcher in baseball at the time, had 14 blocks above average.

"Based on the opportunities that Adley was presented, the average catcher would've been expected to allow 43 passed balls or wild pitches, the third-most for any catcher. Pitching staffs have a lot to do with that. Yet, Rutschman allowed a mere 25 to be passed balls or wild pitches. Not 43. That difference is how you get to plus-18."

In case you needed any more evidence that Rutschman is the best catcher in baseball, he has been able to play in all 30 games so far this season. 

"The fact that he's catching and playing in every single game is remarkable. So, Cal Ripken, the ‘Iron Man,’ watch out, you've got Adley coming. He's only got a little more than 2,500 to catch you.

"But he's well on his way, and he's probably going to rack up a few accolades along the way."

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