Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman comes up short.
The Baltimore Orioles fanbase has reason to pay attention to BBWAA awards this year, including Adley Rutschman being a finalist for Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, the superstar catcher in Baltimore came in second behind a fellow face of the franchise. Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez took home the hardware in the American League, and Guardians outfielder Steven Kwan finished in third.
Regardless of the result, the Orioles and Rutschman have much to celebrate after one season in the Majors. The team’s fortunes turned around right when they called up the top prospect in baseball, going from a clear last-place team of placeholders to stars nearly reaching the playoffs. The pitching staff improved with a better battery mate behind the plate, and the lineup added a force to be reckoned with. We can safely say Robinson Chirinos and Anthony Bemboom won’t be up for any awards anytime soon.
Rutschman put up a strong offensive batting line, especially by catcher standards. He posted an .806 OPS, which equates to a 128 OPS+ with offense down across the board this season. Catchers as a whole posted an OPS+ of 89, which is easily the lowest of any position. Not only was Adley 28% better than league average, but he was 39% better than the average catcher. His WAR total of 5.3 was second behind JT Realmuto, and his wRC+ of 133 was second behind William Contreras (min. 300 PA), and his 13.8% walk rate was the highest. Rutschman passed every test with flying colors.
Among AL Rookies we see a similar picture. Rutschman was tied for first in fWAR and second in wRC+ behind Rodriguez. His walk rate was the best, while his 18.3% strikeout rate was a distant second behind Kwan. He has the highest defensive value of the bunch at 13.1, which is also the biggest separator between him and Rodriguez’s average defense.
Adley Rutschman Finishes Second in Rookie of the Year Voting
But J-Rod has a bit of an edge on offense, which is the most important part of baseball and what voters tend to care about the most. The young phenom is tied with Rutschman in fWAR and has a clear lead in bWAR, 6.2 to 5.2. His 146 wRC+, 28 home runs, .509 slugging percentage, .366 wOBA, and .853 OPS all lead AL rookies. He is also second among AL rookies with 75 RBI’s and 25 steals behind Bobby Witt, Jr. Whether you look at standard or advanced statistics, Julio Rodriguez was the best hitter in the American League this season. Well-known events can also have an undue influence in award voting, and J-Rod’s performance in the Home Run Derby probably earned him some extra votes. Adley’s late debut prevented him from being an All-Star, though he will likely be the starting catcher for the rest of the decade.
The results come as another tough loss for Rutschman after he was somehow not a Gold Glove finalist. He was also up for a Silver Slugger alongside Orioles teammate Anthony Santander, but both came up short. The two of them are up for All-MLB, though, as well as Felix Bautista and Cionel Perez. We will see if fan voters are kinder than the writers.
In case you were wondering, voters have to submit their ballot at the end of the regular season, so postseason performance has no bearing on the results. If they were included, Astros shortstop Jeremy Pena almost certainly would have finished in the top three after winning both ALCS MVP and World Series MVP.
There is one aspect about the award voting that might be more important to Rutschman and the Orioles than winning would have been. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, players who finish first or second in Rookie of the Year voting earn a full year of service time. Since Adley only debuted in May, that is a big difference for him since he will reach free agency a year sooner. It would behoove the team to sign him to a long-term extension in the near future.