MLB Network ranks Adley Rutschman as the best catcher in baseball

Adley Rutschman was once again named the best catcher in baseball
Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles / Rob Carr/GettyImages

For several years now, the MLB network has produced an annual show about the top players at each position heading into the next season. This year, to no one's surprise, Adley Rutschman was named the top catcher in baseball.

Rutschman will turn 26 years old in February and should be just now entering the prime of his career. He is surrounded by a great cast and could be in line for a breakout season. But just how great can Rutschman be?

Adley Rutschman ranked as top catcher in the major leagues

After debuting in 2022 and leading the Orioles to a surprise 83-79 record, Rutschman placed second in the Rookie of the Year voting (behind Julio Rodriguez) and 12th in MVP voting. Pretty impressive for a guy who didn't play his first game until almost two months into the season.

Rutschman was even better in his first full year in the majors. His batting average and OBP both saw significant increases while his strikeout percentage went down. Rutschman was named to his first All-Star team, won his first Silver Slugger, finished 9th in MVP voting and was named to the All-MLB first team.

When you compare Rutschman's stats to other catchers, he really stands out. Rutschman finished either first or second among catchers in hits, OBP, WAR, batting average, doubles and OPS. The offense is great, but the most important job of a catcher is to be a good fielder. His .994 fielding percentage was the sixth-best among catchers who caught at least 100 games, but the number that stands out the most is zero passed balls.

No other catcher with at least 100 games behind the plate had zero passed balls last season. Having a catcher behind the plate that pitchers know will stop whatever gets thrown helps the entire team. Orioles pitchers can throw anything with the confidence that if it can be stopped, Rutschman will stop it.

Rutschman is often compared to Joe Mauer, who is currently in line to be a first ballot Hall of Fame catcher. As far as service time goes, Rutschman is ahead of where Mauer was when it comes to winning awards. Some of that can be chalked up to Rutschman being older than Mauer was early in his career. Mauer had his best season at age 26 when he won his third batting title and his MVP award.

He had a few more years of service time under his belt than Rutschman currently has, but Rutschman is continuing to improve and is in a good position to make a run for MVP in his age 26 season. He bats toward the top of an Orioles lineup that should put up big numbers, calls a great game for his pitchers, and is elite defensively. The offense around him should give him plenty of RBI opportunities as well as help him cross the plate plenty of times.

Adley is a student of the game and has a great baseball IQ. The healthy return of John Means and the emergence of Grayson Rodriguez could give the Orioles two more ace pitchers behind Kyle Bradish for Rutschman to work with. Everything seems to be coming into place at just the right time for the Orioles, and Rutschman is right in the center of it.

Having now been named the best catcher in baseball twice since the end of 2023, there is little doubt left where he stands, but Rutschman is not done. He has great coaching and teammates like James McCann, a former all-star catcher himself, to help continue his development.

If for some reason Rutschman starts to lack motivation, the Orioles have Samuel Basallo, one of baseball's top catching prospects, breathing down Rutschman's neck. Entering his prime years with still more potential, the sky is the limit for the young Orioles superstar.