Major League Baseball's 2019 first-year player draft will begin on Monday, June 3, or in less than three weeks' time. The Baltimore Orioles, owners of the game's worst record last season, will kick off the process by picking first overall. These things can change on a whim, but the expectation for now is that the Orioles will select Oregon State's Adley Rutschman, making him the first catcher taken No. 1 since the Minnesota Twins picked Joe Mauer in 2001.
While Rutschman may not have a career as honeycombed with accolades as Mauer's -- remember, Mauer was a six-time All-Star, three-time batting champ and Gold Glove winner, and the 2009 AL MVP -- he should be a worthy pick at No. 1 overall.
Perhaps the top selling point with Rutschman is his well-rounded nature. He's a switch-hitting backstop who scouts believe could hit for average and power alike. He has a mature approach at the plate, too, with nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts this season. Behind the dish, he has a good arm, strong wrists that enable him to "stick" pitches and frame the strike zone, and more than enough athleticism to project as a catcher over the long haul.
Add it all together and Rutschman profiles as an All-Star-caliber backstop who scouts believe could grade as above-average to plus in every tool component (hitting for average, hitting for power, throwing, and general glovework) except for speed. In other words, that's a player who could hit around .280 while providing more than 20 homers a season and good defense. For reference, J.T. Realmuto is considered one of the best catchers in the game -- and since the start of the 2017 season he's hit .277 with about 23 homers per 162 games. That's a keeper.
Predictably, Rutschman will become the best catching prospect in baseball the moment he signs his professional contract. Joey Bart, whom the San Francisco Giants drafted No. 2 last year, would be the fiercest competition -- but Rutschman, by all accounts, is a superior hitter. Almost by default, Rutschman is also likely to be ranked in the top 25 or so on most universal lists, as well as No. 1 on Orioles-specific lists.
Rutschman may not be hyped to the gills like Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg, but he's a high-quality prospect who should serve as someone's franchise catcher -- and that someone seems more likely than not to be the Orioles.