Who Will Win the Baltimore Orioles’ Starting Catcher Job?

Entering 2022, the Baltimore Orioles have an intriguing competition for the team’s starting job at catcher. Who will be the O’s backstop on Opening Day?

After a handful of moves, the catcher position is set to look drastically different for the Baltimore Orioles in 2022. With Major League Baseball’s top prospect, Adley Rutschman, on target to earn his first taste of big-league action in the upcoming year, the team seems to be looking for a player to take the reigns at catcher in somewhat of a stopgap role, holding down the position until Rutschman is ready to join the Major League team in Baltimore. It remains to be seen who that player will be and for how long their services would be needed.

Following a 2021 season in which the Orioles struggled mightily behind the plate, the team outrighted catchers Pedro Severino, Austin Wynns, and Nick Ciuffo. While Ciuffo currently remains a free agent, Severino and Wynns have each already signed contracts to play elsewhere in 2022. With the Orioles cleaning house at the catcher position, a signing or two this winter was sure to come.

Baltimore agreed to minor league deals with Jacob Nottingham and Anthony Bemboom following Major League Baseball’s lockout on December 1st, giving the team options to promote to their 40-man roster once work resumes under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Regardless if Rutschman breaks camp with the Orioles this Spring, either one or both of Nottingham and Bemboom will be in line for a Major League roster spot in the upcoming season.

Nottingham’s 2021 campaign included a very odd journey to playing time, beginning the season with the Milwaukee Brewers before being claimed off waivers by the Seattle Mariners in April, only to be traded back to Milwaukee three days after the waiver claim. A subsequent return to Seattle would happen in late May as the Brewers designated Nottingham for assignment for a second time that season, giving the Mariners yet another opportunity to claim him off waivers.

The constant movement took a toll on Nottingham’s performance at the plate in 2021 as the 26-year-old slashed just .150/.222/.400 in 45 plate appearances. The Orioles will hope that some consistency in when and where he’s playing will aid Nottingham in making strong contributions behind the plate this upcoming season.

As for Bemboom, the O’s will look to get some solid performances out of a player who, much like Nottingham, hasn’t gotten the playing time needed to make strides at the Major League level. Bemboom, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday in January, has appeared in just 54 games since his MLB debut in 2019, posting a slash line of .178/.241/.287 with a career strikeout rate over 30%.

While Nottingham and Bemboom attempt to gain footing, the possibility of Adley Rutschman making the Opening Day roster looms. Orioles General Manager Mike Elias mentioned in an August media session that Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez, the team’s top two prospects, are both expected to make the jump to the Major League level in 2022.

While Elias’ optimism for 2022 doesn’t necessarily mean Rutschman will be in Baltimore for Opening Day, he is sure to make an impact once the team makes the move for him. The 23-year-old posted an impressive .312/.405/.490 slash line in 43 games with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides in 2021 after his mid-season call-up from Double-A. Combine those offensive numbers with a defensive prowess that many scouts believe to be the best part of his game and a complete package behind the dish emerges, something for Orioles fans to eagerly look forward to.