Here’s a question that would be foolish to ask in early July: Can Adley Rutschman surpass Julio Rodriguez for the American League Rookie of the Year award?

At the time, Rutschman was in the middle of his big league career and the month he entered the fray. He was hitting .220/.287/.407 with three home runs in 32 games. Rodriguez, on the other hand, spent the entire season in the majors, compiling a .272/.333/.466 slash line with 13 home runs in 77 games. No one doubted Rutschmann’s future, but sweating it out for Rodriguez seemed unlikely.

since then? Rutschman showed why CBS Sports considers him the sport’s best prospect entering the spring.. Over his last 32 games, he is hitting .284/.439/.451 with 13 more base hits and more walks (27) than hitters (20). He is one of the key drivers behind it. Orioles‘ grow up. Rodriguez has performed well, hitting for an .884 OPS, but injuries have limited his availability recently, allowing a Rutschman opportunity to close — and remember, when it comes to awards, it’s all about the counting stats.

There’s no easy way to estimate the exact distance between two players in the eyes of voters, but one way to measure these types of things is to consider the gap on various win replacement metrics. After all, Rutschman has 0.4 wins per both Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs calculations. But he remains above winning according to a baseball-frame of reference. There’s time for those signs to change, but it seems fair to write off Rodriguez as the current front-runner for the award.

Of course, none of that diminishes what Rutschman has done over the summer, and his recent tear shows that he’s a subject worth considering. More important than some hardware is making sure he can serve as a well-rounded, front-of-the-franchise-caliber backstop.

Rutschman mostly checked those boxes as of late. At the plate, he often showed a keen eye and feel for line-drive type contact. Rutschman has struggled as a right-handed hitter (his OPS is .952 against lefties, as opposed to .498 against righties) and his power numbers aren’t where you’d expect his plus to be. Raw strength. It should be noted that both of these aspects may be the result of small sample sizes, for example, fewer than 100 plate appearances have been presented on the left to date. But if Camden’s redesigned left-field dimensions have anything to do with the relative dimness of the lights, his ISO on the road is 80 points higher than at home — again, in a small sample. Either way, we’re not too worried about those flaws just yet.

Behind the plate, Rutschman left no question about his defense. He was always considered a field general type who could manage the pitching staff. His catching and throwing skills warranted their shouts. He ranks eighth in the majors in Framing Runs Added above average, putting him right alongside the likes of Sean Murphy and Yasmani Grandel. Rutschman’s pop time to the secondary — that is, the time it takes to catch the ball, move it and then pass the bag to a linebacker — ranks in the 88th percentile, according to Statcast. Most stolen bases are taken off the catcher, not the catcher, and Rutschman seems more than capable of protecting the end of the inning given the chance to make a play.

Add it all together and it’s reasonable to assume this won’t be the last time Rutschman (or Rodriguez, for that matter) competes for the award.



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