SECAUCUS, N.J. — Pitchers took a backseat at the Major League Baseball draft.
On a night when a record 22 position players and nine shortstops were chosen in the first round, the rebuilding Baltimore Orioles went for a cornerstone at catcher, selecting Oregon State switch-hitter Adley Rutschman with the top pick Monday.
Rutschman became the first catcher to go No. 1 since Minnesota tabbed Joe Mauer in 2001.
“He’s everything you want and he plays a premium defensive position with athleticism that gives him versatility to play elsewhere, as needed,” first-year Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said in a video statement posted on the team’s Twitter account. “A future fixture for this organization.”
The only other time the Orioles led off the draft they took LSU pitcher Ben McDonald in 1989.
The 21-year-old Rutschman had been the favorite to go first overall since he led the Beavers to the College World Series championship last year and was selected the most outstanding player.
He followed that up with a monster junior season, batting .411 with 17 homers, 58 RBIs and a school-record 76 walks. On defense, he threw out 13 of 27 runners attempting to steal.
Here are some more numbers, too: After getting drafted in the 40th round by Seattle three years ago, Rutschman is in line for a potential $8,415,300 signing bonus — the assigned slot value for this year’s top pick.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said from Goss Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. “Just to look back on how I was as a kid and seeing what my expectations were, how far I’ve come from there, it’s special.”
Arizona State power-hitting outfielder Hunter Bishop — younger brother of Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop — went to San Francisco with the 10th pick.