3 AL East rookies who Red Sox must prepare to face in 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 02: Shane Baz #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on October 02, 2021 in New York City. The Rays defeated the Yankees 12-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 02: Shane Baz #11 of the Tampa Bay Rays in action against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on October 02, 2021 in New York City. The Rays defeated the Yankees 12-2. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JUNE 25: The 2019 top overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on before the Orioles play the San Diego Padres at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 25, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND – JUNE 25: The 2019 top overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft, Adley Rutschman #35 of the Baltimore Orioles looks on before the Orioles play the San Diego Padres at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on June 25, 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Red Sox must prepare for Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman

The worst team in the AL East has the best prospect in baseball waiting in the wings, which means the Baltimore Orioles might not stay in the basement much longer. ESPN, MLB Pipeline and The Athletic all rate Adley Rutschman as the No. 1 overall prospect.

Rutschman is a nearly flawless catching prospect with plus tools for every aspect of his game. He hit a respectable .285 across two minor league levels last year, an average that increased to .312 when he advanced to Triple-A for his final 43 games. The switch-hitter has exceptional plate discipline with a strikeout rate that put him in the top 15 percent of all Double-A and Triple-A hitters last year. There’s power in his bat with 23 home runs and 25 doubles in 123 games.

Getting this type of production from the catcher position is part of what makes Rutschman an elite prospect. As high as his ceiling is with the bat, his work behind the plate might be even more valuable. Rutschman is an outstanding receiver with a plus arm. He’s an excellent game-caller and has all the intangibles you could want from a catcher.

Rutschman has drawn comparisons to Buster Posey. While it’s premature to project a similar career to that of the future Hall of Famer, Rutschman is probably the best catching prospect to enter the big leagues since Posey.

Long-term, the only thing holding Rutschman back is the wear and tear that comes with the catcher position. It’s difficult to project catchers because the beating they take behind the plate can take a toll.

Short-term, the only factor that could keep him out of the Rookie of the Year race is service-time manipulation. Baltimore might not be in a hurry to call up their top prospect in a year they aren’t going to be a contender. If the rules in the new collective bargaining agreement decrease their incentive to keep him buried in the minors, Rutschman could very well be the Opening Day catcher for the O’s.

The Red Sox host Baltimore in their second series of the season so it shouldn’t be long before we get our first look at baseball’s best prospect.

"Sleeper" prospect in the Red Sox farm system. dark. Next