SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Adley Rutschman heard the chatter for months that he’d be the top pick in the Major League Baseball draft.
The switch-hitting Oregon State catcher just kept slugging at the plate and throwing out would-be basestealers all season from behind it — making it an easy call for the Baltimore Orioles on Monday night.
“It’s unbelievable,” Rutschman said from Goss Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon, shortly after becoming the top pick. “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.”
The announcement by Commissioner Rob Manfred at MLB Network studios marked the second time the Orioles led off the draft — they took LSU pitcher Ben McDonald in 1989.
“I met with all the teams over the course of the year and knew the Orioles were going to be the first overall,” said Rutschman, a 40th-round pick by Seattle three years ago. “As the year progressed and went along, it looked like it was a possibility more and more. It just worked out that way.”
With the No. 2 choice, the Kansas City Royals grabbed Texas high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr., the son of former big league pitcher Bobby Witt.
The younger Witt has draft-day bragging rights on his father, who won 142 games over 16 seasons after being selected No. 3 overall in 1985.
“Now I’ve got him beat,” Bobby Witt Jr. said.
The Witts became the highest-drafted father-son duo, topping Tom Grieve (No. 6, 1966) and Ben Grieve (No. 2, 1994). They are the seventh father-son combination of first-rounders, and first since Delino DeShields (1987) and Delino DeShields Jr. (2010).
“The dreams are kind of turning into reality,” the younger Witt said.
The 21-year-old Rutschman had been the favorite to go first overall since he led Oregon State to the College World Series championship last year and was selected the most outstanding player. He followed that up with a dominant junior season at the plate — and behind it. He hit .411 with a career-best 17 homers to go with 58 RBIs and a school-record 76 walks, and threw out 13 of 27 runners attempting to steal.
Rutschman, a native of Sherwood, Oregon, is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award given to the country’s top college player. He was also the Pac-12 player of the year for the Beavers and the conference’s co-defensive player of year.
His selection marks the seventh time a player drafted as a catcher was taken with the top pick, and first since Minnesota tabbed Joe Mauer in 2001.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Witt Jr. , considered a five-tool prospect, turns 19 next Friday. The Colleyville Heritage High School star has impressive power while making consistent contact with a smooth right-handed swing.
University of California slugging first baseman Andrew Vaughn went to the Chicago White Sox with the third pick.
Vaughn batted .381 this season with 15 homers, 50 RBIs and a .544 on-base percentage that ranks among the national leaders. He also showed a terrific eye at the plate and struck out just 74 times in three college seasons.
The 6-foot, 214-pound Vaughn is also looking to become the first repeat winner of the Golden Spikes Award after earning the honor as a sophomore last year.
The Miami Marlins drafted Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday at No. 4, adding the Southeastern Conference player of the year who has a quick, left-handed swing and leads Division I players in home runs with a school-record 26. A finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Bleday is hitting .351 and brings a 42-game on-base streak into next weekend’s super regionals round of the NCAA Tournament.
With the fifth pick, the Detroit Tigers took Florida high school outfielder Riley Greene. Gatorade’s Florida state player of year hit .422 with eight homers, 27 RBIs and 38 runs as arguably the country’s top prep outfielder. He has a smooth left-handed swing that produces consistent line drives.
More draft history was made when the San Diego Padres selected speedy Georgia high school shortstop CJ Abrams at No. 6, marking the first time no pitchers were taken within the first six picks.
The lefty-hitting Abrams was considered by many to be the fastest player in the draft. The Blessed Trinity Catholic High School star batted .418 with eight home runs and 100 RBIs in his high school career.
TCU left-hander Nick Lodolo ended the run on position players, going seventh overall to the Cincinnati Reds.
Generally regarded as the top pitching prospect in this year’s class, Lodolo went 6-6 with a 2.36 ERA and struck out 131 while walking just 25 in 103 innings for the Horned Frogs. He was the 41st overall pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016 — the highest selection to go unsigned that year.
Lodolo also became TCU’s highest-drafted player, topping Lance Broadway (No. 15 by White Sox in 2005).
Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung, the co-Big 12 player of the year, was the eighth overall pick. He slid over from third to shortstop early this season, so he has some position flexibility, and was among the conference’s leaders in several offensive categories while leading the Red Raiders to the NCAA Tournament.
Atlanta took Baylor catcher Shea Langeliers with the No. 9 pick — which the Braves received as compensation for not signing last year’s first-rounder pitcher Carter Stewart — who was eligible for this year’s draft but instead signed a six-year contract last week with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Japan’s Pacific League that will guarantee him as much as $7 million
Langeliers is an outstanding defensive catcher who threw out 14 of 25 would-be basestealers. He’s also terrific at the plate; he set an NCAA Tournament record with 11 RBIs in a three-homer game against Omaha on Saturday night.
Arizona State power-hitting outfielder Hunter Bishop went to San Francisco, rounding out the first 10 selections. The lefty-hitting younger brother of Mariners outfielder Braden Bishop ranked among national leaders in home runs, RBIs, total bases and runs scored.
Texas high school third baseman Brett Baty was the first of the four prospects in attendance to be selected, going 12th overall to the Mets. San Jacinto Junior College right-hander Jackson Rutledge was the second to be drafted, going to Washington at No. 17.