The Orioles hadn’t had a prospect like Adley Rutschman in more than a decade. The prize of the loaded 2019 draft class, Rutschman rose to Baseball America’s coveted No. 1 spot on its top 100 list within three years of his selection — the second player in franchise history after Matt Wieters to earn that distinction.

Then they got another. And another.

After debuting in 2022, Rutschman handed the baton to a player who was picked 41 spots after him in the same draft: infielder Gunnar Henderson. Despite making it to the big leagues late in 2022, Henderson held his prospect status through the start of the following season, then gave way to Jackson Holliday in the midseason rankings.

That’s three different prospects from the same organization reaching the pinnacle of Baseball America’s Top 100 in consecutive seasons, a feat that has never been accomplished since the industry publication started the list in 1990.

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And if that wasn’t enough, the Orioles could make it four in a row.

Samuel Basallo, a 2020 international signee out of the Dominican Republic, skyrocketed to No. 10 in the latest rankings, up 32 spots from over the summer. Basallo, 19, got up to Double-A Bowie in 2023, jumping two levels of the minor leagues over the course of the season. In 114 minor league games, the catcher hit .313 with 20 home runs and a .953 on-base-plus-slugging.

Baseball America gives Basallo’s power and arm tools each 70 grades (on the scouting scale of 20-80), and places him just one spot below Paul Skenes, the fire-balling right-hander who was taken with the first selection in last July’s draft.

And it’s not hard to envision a path for Basallo to become the Orioles’ fourth No. 1 prospect by 2025.

The lefty-hitting backstop played in just four games in Bowie last September, making it likely he returns to the Baysox to start 2024. And his quick adjustment to Double-A pitching — he collected seven hits in his first 16 at-bats — could portend another statistically strong season.

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Basallo could also rise by nature of attrition. With the exception of Padres catching prospect Ethan Salas (No. 8), every player ranked higher than Basallo is older than him. Six finished last season at Triple A or the big leagues. As budding stars such as Jackson Chourio and Evan Carter spend more time in the majors and begin to lose their prospect status, the list of players ahead of him will dwindle.

But the Orioles aren’t concerned with where Basallo fits in each media outlet’s rankings. They’re focused on where fits in their future.

As the front office weighs the possibility of trading from its bevy of talented youngsters to acquire a big-league pitcher, Basallo may have proven to be too valuable to include in a deal for anything less than a star. His success at such a young age is remarkable — not even Henderson was playing Double-A ball before turning 20. Basallo may not be as “untouchable” as Holliday, but given how high his ceiling is thought to be, he can’t be far off.

Deciding to keep him is the easy part. Finding a place to put him is harder.

In case you haven’t noticed, the Orioles have their franchise catcher. Rutschman is under team control for the next four years, blocking Basallo’s path to becoming an everyday player behind the plate. But where Adley’s defense has proven to be steady, Samuel’s is less so, according to scouts.

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Baseball America gives Basallo’s fielding tool a 45, down from a 50 in his 2022 scouting report. He spent the majority of his games behind the plate in 2023, but he also got 28 games at first base and 15 at designated hitter.

Baltimore has veteran James McCann under contract for just one more season. The 33-year-old has been more than serviceable, but will likely decline in his mid-to-late 30s. Could Basallo take over as Rutschman’s backup in 2025, while also platooning with Ryan Mountcastle at first base and designated hitter?

Plenty of other chips have yet to fall for that to happen. The Orioles still need to figure out what they have in Heston Kjerstad — another powerful left-handed hitting prospect — and a trade for a starter could shake up the O’s farm system. But Basallo’s meteoric rise has all but solidified his standing in the organization’s plans for 2025 and beyond.

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