If the Guardians are showing the value of bringing up several quality prospects, the Orioles are showing why, sometimes, all you need is one.
Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman has been a savant for the birds of Baltimore, slashing .254/.363/.442 with eight home runs and a team-leading 134 wRC+. He’s only played 79 games in the majors, but already he is starting to look like the best catcher in baseball on both sides of the plate. In addition to his threatening plate prescence, he has a pop time in the 80th percentile and frames pitches with the best of them.
The former first-overall pick is having the kind of first-overall success that baseball hasn’t seen in a rookie since Bryce Harper (who was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010 and debuted in 2012), Gerrit Cole (drafted in 2011, debuted in 2013), and Carlos Correa (drafted in 2012, debuted in 2015), made the first selection in the MLB draft look like an easy route to success.
It’s not only Rutschman doing the heavy lifting, of course (it just feels like it sometimes). Old friend Anthony Santander continues to pay dividends for the Orioles’ decision to take him in the 2016 Rule 5 draft and stash him on their rebuilding roster as he developed. After a bumpy couple of years, he broke out in 2020 with a 130 wRC+, and this year he’s slashing .258/.335/.459 with a career-high 23 home runs and hard-hit balls all over the field.
The Orioles disappointed the baseball world at large by trading Trey Mancini at the deadline and not fully sending it for a potential surprise playoff push, but the .500 team that entered August has now risen to a 67-60 record and they are just two games back in the Wild Card race. Five Orioles have played at least 16 games and have a wRC+ over 120 since Mancini was dealt to the Astros: Rutschman (151 wRC+ in the last 30 days) and Santander (140), of course, along with Cedric Mullins (152), Jorge Mateo (136), and Ryan McKenna (120).
Maybe the most impressive thing about the Orioles is that they’ve stitched together a pitching staff that can at least be described as “not the worst in baseball,” despite losing John Means to Tommy John surgery two starts into the season. They have gone through 12 starters this season with mixed success, but their relievers have been outstanding. Of the seven who have pitched more than 40 innings, only Joey Krehbiel and Bryan Baker have ERA’s over 3.00 (3.99 and 3.02, respectively).
For the Guardians, this series represents a chance to get back on track after a disappointing West Coast trip. The Twins are surging on a four-game winning streak and seem capable of beating the Red Sox and White Sox over their next two series. If Cleveland can’t bring the Orioles back down to earth and get some wins, their 1.5-game lead in the AL Central may evaporate before the weekend.
Team at a glance
- Record: 67-60 (7th in AL)
- Runs Scored: 538 (9th in AL)
- Run Differential: +14 (8th in AL)
- Last 10: 6-4
- Slash: .237/.305/.391
- wOBA: .230 (9th in AL)
- wRC+: 100 (10th in AL)
- ERA: 3.84 (7th in AL)
- SIERA: 3.99 (11th in AL)
- K-BB%: 13.1% (11th in AL)
Tuesday, Aug. 30, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Spenser Watkins vs. RHP Cal Quantrill
Wednesday, Aug. 31, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Jordan Lyles vs. RHP Triston McKenzie
Thursday, Sept. 1, 6:10 p.m. ET: RHP Kyle Bradish vs. RHP Shane Bieber
How many games will the Guardians win against the Orioles?
This poll is closed