Many top prospects impressed this spring and earned a spot on their club’s 2022 Opening Day roster. However, Adley Rutschman, the top-ranked prospect and former No. 1 overall pick, dealt with a minor triceps injury that prevented him from joining them. The prices of his cards are at their highest, but does that mean you shouldn’t invest? To answer your questions, we present the Adley Rutschman best cards and investment guide.
On Saturday, May 21, 2020, the Baltimore Orioles finally announced their switch-hitting catcher would make his debut.
Rutschman’s list of awards at Oregon State stretches longer than a Walgreens receipt. It most notably includes the 2019 Golden Spikes and Dick Howser Awards for the best player in collegiate baseball. So, there wasn’t much surprise when the Baltimore Orioles selected Adley Rutschman with the first overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft.
The switch-hitting catcher led Oregon State to the 2018 College World Series as a sophomore. He put up gaudy numbers that helped the Beavers win their third national title and earned Rutschman the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award.
During that summer, Rutschman played on the 2018 USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team, where he led all hitters with a .355 batting average, .432 on-base percentage, and .516 slugging percentage. When he returned for his junior season at Oregon State in 2019, Rutschman was somehow even more impressive. He hit for more power while also improving his already remarkable walk rate.
|College Batting Stats|
Although his offensive numbers catch the eye, Rutschman’s defense behind the plate shouldn’t be overlooked. His arm strength is perhaps the most electrifying element of his defensive game. It allows him to throw out base stealers easily. And even though a catcher’s framing ability isn’t something card collectors and investors fawn over, his is first-rate.
Rutschman’s highly anticipated professional debut did not disappoint. He hit a home run in his first minor league game and quickly earned a promotion to the next level. Most of Rutschman’s first professional season came in Low-A, but he played a few games for Baltimore’s rookie ball and Single-A team. His combined numbers don’t jump off the page, but he was able to settle into a routine while playing 20 games in Low-A, where he slashed .325/.413/.481.
Like all other minor leaguers, the pandemic altered the natural minor league progression for Rutschman. Luckily, because he was a top prospect, the Orioles brought Rutschman to their alternate training site. There he continued to develop while also facing and working with top prospects and big-league pitchers.
The 2020 anomaly helped prepare Rutschman for his first full minor league season in 2021. By this time, the 23-year-old catcher was the consensus No. 2 prospect in all of baseball, behind only Wander Franco. Baseball America gave Rutschman 70 scouting grades in three categories, hit, power, and arm, coming into 2021. Those grades held up throughout the year and were replicated in 2022 pre-season reports. Much of that had to do with Rutschman’s ability to drive the ball out of the yard (18 home runs in 80 games at Double-A) while maintaining a high average and pristine plate discipline as he moved up to Triple-A by the end of the season. In addition, his improvements in his game-calling ability, ability to eliminate base stealers, and relationships with pitchers were praised by coaches and teammates.
|Minor League Stats|
This 2021 success led Baseball America to give Rutschman high praise coming into 2022: The composite of all of Rutschman’s skills makes for a player who looks like he can be an above-average major leaguer in 2022. A forecast of multiple all-star appearances and consideration for MVP honors isn’t far-fetched. Rutschman will be the cornerstone of the Orioles’ planned turnaround, and his success in Triple-A means there’s not much left for him to accomplish there.
Baseball America Grades: Hit: 70 | Power: 70 | Run: 40 | Field: 60 | Arm: 70 | Overall: 70
|ZiPS 2022 Proj.||556||77||23||21||10.4%||17.8%||.264||.347||.449||4.2|
|Steamer 2022 Proj.||450||55||19||16||10.9%||18.4%||.251||.338||.431||2.8|
As I’ve mentioned before, projections aren’t the end-all-be-all, especially when looking at players with small minor league sample sizes. Rutschman played only 179 games in the minor leagues. Some of that was for a good reason: his performance in the two highest levels was superb. Unfortunately, some of that wasn’t in his control: the pandemic canceled the entire 2020 season, and an injury sidelined him in early 2022.
Still, Rutschman was the best and most big-league ready player who did not make his team’s Opening Day roster this season. The Orioles believe he will be the face of their franchise for the next decade, but they also think he can help their team win right now. Both ZiPS and Steamer project Rutschman to be the Orioles’ most productive player by WAR.
The narrative reports back up the numbers. But, first, take a look at the high praise Rutschman has earned…
Rutschman is a complete, franchise-altering prospect and one of the most exciting young players in the entire sport. He’s a switch-hitter with a hit/power combination that would probably make him an All-Star anywhere on the diamond. He is also a plus defender at the most demanding position in baseball and an intense, vocal, charismatic leader. His track record of superlative statistical performance and unanimous scout adoration has continued uninterrupted for nearly half a decade now. In our eyes, he is in a tier of his own as the best prospect in baseball.
As a switch-hitting catcher who controls the strike zone, possesses plus power, is a plus defender, and shows elite leadership skills, he is the face of the Orioles’ rebuild and projects to be a perennial all-star… While his skill set is major league-ready, coaches and teammates appreciate how tirelessly Rutschman works to improve and shows genuine efforts for helping them do the same.
As much as his plus tools stand out, his humility and work ethic get even higher marks, giving him every chance to become the superstar people expect to see. That thud Baltimore is hearing is Rutschman banging on the big league door.
When the Orioles announced they were calling up the prospect all of Bird-Land (and baseball!) has been waiting to see, you can bet people tuned in. Along with his first big league hit, a stand-up triple, Rutschman showed poise as he trotted out to the plate for the first time as a major leaguer.
When it comes to the baseball card world, collectors and investors were also chomping at the bit to see the player Baseball America touted as the “Best MLB Draft prospect since Bryce Harper.” Of course, when a player’s name is mentioned in the same sentence as current greats, ears around the hobby perk up.
Besides a few cards released during his time with Team USA in 2018, Rutschman’s most notable pre-rookie cards were a part of the 2019 Bowman Draft set, where he carried the 1st Bowman designation. Shortly after its release that December, an autographed superfractor sold for more than $23,000 in an auction.
The catcher’s 1st Bowman cards from the 2019 Bowman Draft are among the most valuable in that release. Here is Rutschman’s card placed next to a few other notable players with the 1st Bowman designation. These are the average sales price for PSA 10 chrome versions of their base cards.
Because of all the hype surrounding Rutschman, his prospect cards carry a steep price tag. He was widely regarded as the best college baseball player even before his name was the first one in the draft, so he was never going to be a prospect that you could snag for a good deal because he was flying under the radar. And being the prospect with arguably the biggest expectations on his shoulders, a slow start will have fans and investors grumbling.
For this reason, I’m not sure it makes sense to go out of your way to invest in Rutschman’s cards. At the time of his MLB debut, the price tags and expectations are as high as they’ve ever been. Rutschman also plays the most demanding position on the diamond. That doesn’t necessarily translate to added value in the hobby. Indeed, it could also impact his offensive production, as we’ve seen with other stars’ catchers…any early Gary Sánchez investors here?
To be fair, I don’t think Rutschman’s risk is so high that a Sánchez-like career arc is close to likely. The Orioles backstop has impeccable plate discipline and high contact numbers, something Sánchez does not. He’s also excellent defensively and seems to have a more mature mindset than the aforementioned catcher.
For me, it’s less of a risk issue and more of a question of whether anything Rutschman does will satisfy the unfairly high expectations that fans and investors alike have heaped on his shoulders.
The list below shows five of Rutschman’s most valuable cards. Except for the green refractor listed below, all cards are PSA graded 10 on the card and autograph. The green refractor is a PSA 10 on the card but has no autograph grade.
If you’re ripping 2019 Bowman wax and pull an Adley Rutschman card, I think it’s worth holding on to. Sit and watch how his first few big league seasons unfold. The same goes for whichever set his rookie card winds up in, likely in Series 2 or Topps Update later this season.
I think he will be a great player for a really long time! I wouldn’t, however, feel confident investing thousands of dollars into raw or already-slabbed cards for a player as hyped as Rutschman.