Orioles position reviews: All week, The Baltimore Banner’s sports staff will review how each position group performed in the 2023 season.

Adley Rutschman is the star in the making. James McCann is the veteran backup. Together, they formed the Orioles’ catching duo this season.

For Rutschman, the Orioles’ top pick in the 2019 draft and their former top prospect, 2023 was his second major league season. He took strides — the switch-hitter improved from the right side of the plate and made his first All-Star game — and cemented himself, as if there were any lingering questions, as the Orioles’ starting catcher. When he wasn’t catching, he was used as the designated hitter, playing in all but eight of the team’s regular season games.

McCann, traded from the Mets last offseason, proved to be a valuable fill-in. He handled himself well at the plate despite his limited at-bats and meshed well with the pitching staff. He has one year remaining on his contract.

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2023 stat lines

Rutschman: 154 games played, 163 hits (1st among MLB catchers), 20 HR (tied for 8th among MLB catchers), 80 RBI (tied for 2nd among MLB catchers) while slashing .277/.374/.435 with a .809 OPS (2nd among MLB catchers)

McCann: 69 games played, 46 hits, 6 HR, 26 RBI while slashing .222/.269/.377 with a .646 OPS

Other options:

The Orioles made great use of the taxi squad, carrying a catcher with them for most of the season to help with bullpens and serve as an emergency fill-in if injury struck. They also, at times, had a third catcher on the active roster, a way to get both Rutschman and McCann into the lineup while also having someone available on the bench.

While only Anthony Bemboom saw game action, José Godoy, Maverick Handley and Meibrys Viloria all spent time with the Orioles this season. Bemboom, Godoy and Viloria are all free agents, while Handley, drafted by the Orioles in 2019, ended the season in Triple-A.

2024 outlook:

There’s no denying that the Orioles have been changed for the better since Rutschman’s debut in May 2022, going 168-116 in that span. And Rutschman has set the tone for the long line of top prospects that followed him to Baltimore. He’s in his last year of pre-arbitration — meaning he’ll make league minimum in 2024 — and then he’s under three more years of team control before he hits free agency. He’s safe, and will be the Orioles’ starter again next season.

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McCann is also set to return. He’s not a guarantee like Rutschman is — there is always a possibility, albeit small, they could trade him — but all signs point toward him being the backup once again next season as they wait for the next generation to be ready.

Prospects to watch:

Samuel Basallo, only 19, just wrapped up his first full season in organized ball, jumping from Low-A to Double-A while maintaining a .313 batting average with 20 home runs across the three levels. His biggest impact is his bat — it’s the main reason for his quick rise — but his catching skills have also progressed. He has an elite arm and has grown into his frame, but his flexibility, although improving, could still use some work. He has an outside chance of debuting next season, but 2025 is more plausible.

danielle.allentuck@thebaltimorebanner.com

Additional position reviews:

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College. 

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