Adley Rutschman Earns Full Service Year With Rookie Of The Year Runner-Up

Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman finished runner-up in this year’s American League Rookie of the Year balloting. While the honor went to Mariners center fielder Julio Rodríguez, the runner-up placement is a key development for Rutschman.

In order to disincentivize service time manipulation, the league and Players Association agreed to the so-called “prospect promotion incentive” in the most recent collective bargaining agreement. Any player with less than 60 days of MLB service coming into the season who placed on at least two preseason Top 100 prospect lists at Baseball America, ESPN or MLB Pipeline now receives a full year of service time if they finish in the top two in Rookie of the Year balloting. Rutschman meets that qualification, meaning he’ll earn a full year of service for the 2022 campaign. That moves his path to arbitration and free agency up a year, as he’ll now qualify for arbitration after the 2024 season and is on track to reach free agency after the 2027 campaign.

Rutschman coming up short of the hardware was more a matter of timing than any possible indictment of his performance. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft, the switch-hitting backstop was banged up in Spring Training and eventually started the year in the minors. He played 20 minor league games before getting his first big league call in late May, a time when Rodríguez had already cemented himself among the AL favorites.

As soon as he got to the big league level, Rutschman emerged as Baltimore’s top position player. He hit .254/.362/.445 with 13 home runs across 470 plate appearances. Among 29 catchers with at least 300 plate appearances, Rutschman trailed only Toronto’s Alejandro Kirk in on-base percentage and finished eighth in slugging. The former Oregon State star also threw out 11 of 36 attempted base-stealers, rated as 18 runs above average with the glove by measure of Defensive Runs Saved and immediately stepped in to lead a generally young pitching staff.

Rutschman is arguably already one of the sport’s top three catchers, and his arrival helped kick off an incredible midseason turnaround for the O’s. 16-24 at the time of his promotion, Baltimore went 67-55 after his call-up and shocked much of the baseball world by flirting with Wild Card contention into September. They didn’t make the postseason, but they were far better than most expected and have positioned themselves for a more active offseason than they’ve had since starting their rebuild. Rutschman isn’t responsible for the Orioles turnaround alone, but he’s no doubt the biggest part of what’s an increasingly promising team.

Unlike the Mariners, the Orioles will not receive a bonus draft pick for Rutschman’s finish. Seattle earns an extra selection because Rodríguez, who also met the criteria as a consensus top prospect preseason, would have qualified for a full year of service independent of the award finish based on the team carrying him on the MLB roster for at least 172 days. Rutschman was on the roster for 138 days and would not have earned a full service year in 2022 if not for his top-two finish.

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