For Orioles and Nationals, a reconstruction with a star behind the plate looks much better.

Jordan Lyles needed a second to ponder the question. Presented with a premise – If an organization can choose a top-level attractive prospect or a top-level prospect in another position, which one should it choose? – Lyles leaned back in his chair in the Orioles clubhouse, pretending to be general manager for a moment.

The decision rested on the belief that the two players were nearly identical apart from their position. Lyles pointed out that scouting reports on high schoolers or college stars don’t always accurately predict how a player might turn out in five years.

With this, the veteran right-handed batsman reached his conclusion.

“If it’s close talent-wise, anything you do on a franchise with a franchise catcher, I think, because there are only 30 starting catchers, and now half the teams are platooning,” Lyles said. “Buster poses don’t come around [often]And they’re more valuable to organizations long term, I think, because you don’t need to keep up with the catchers as quickly. ,

Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias appeared to agree with Lyles’ argument in 2019, when he had his first major decision in Baltimore. Choose catcher Adley Ratsman on high school shortstop Bobby Witt Jr.Who now plays for Kansas City Royals.

A player with Ratschman’s skill set – the ability to switch hits with power – may have been selected with the top overall draft pick, regardless of what position he played in. But the prospect of finding a franchise cornerstone behind the plate was an added advantage.

While stars take many forms, a catcher plays a vital role in handling the pitching staff to provide offensive output at the plate. So far, Rutschman has proved adept at both for the Orioles.

The Nationals, which ended the two-match series at Camden Yards on Wednesday night, went through much of the same process, albeit in a different way. As Washington sought to begin an unexpected rebuild last season, just two years after winning the World Series, he sent right-hander Max Schaezer and shortstop Tree Turner to the Los Angeles Dodgers and received catcher Keibert Ruiz in return.

It was a different approach, using trade instead of draft, but the implications are the same. For a team undergoing rebuilding, it is especially beneficial to start with a building block behind the plate. They are in a unique position with a wide range of responsibilities. Finding an answer to a position to hold for years to come solves one of the biggest questions in reconstruction.

“You’re almost like a liaison between the pitching staff and the offense,” said first baseman Trey Mancini. “Like, you’re very involved on both sides. So for someone who’s really impressive behind the dish and can swing the bat really well, yeah, I think it’s difficult, especially today.” in the game.

As Lyles noted, players like Posey — a 2012 National League Most Valuable Player, seven-time All-Star and three-time World Series champion — are few and far between. Before Ratschman, Minnesota Twins legend Joe Maurer was the last catcher with the top overall pick in 2001. In the 17 draft between Maurer and Ratschmann, seven pitchers and six shortstops were taken first overall. There have now been two catchers in three years, with the Pittsburgh Pirates taking on Louisville star Henry Davis No. 1 in 2021.

Teams want to build in the middle of the field – “it’s been like this for 100 years,” said manager Brandon Hyde – whether it’s a middle fielder or a center fielder. But finding a catcher who can excel as both a hitter and a defender may be the optimal route given the vagaries of coming up with such catchers.

Beginning in Ratshman’s first month in the chiefs, defensive improvements have been more rapid. He’s been learning his pitching staff, and his batting average has risen recently, including another double Wednesday.

“It’s such a tough position to be a rookie in the big leagues in, and then get to the top of it,” Hyde said. “He will keep getting better and better.”

As Lyles considered the situation, he compared finding a franchise catcher to finding a franchise quarterback in football. Comfort in a front office is when there is continuity down the center that is felt in the team and in the draft.

With Rutschman—and in a sense, Ruiz, another highly ranked prospect now playing for Washington—the annual search for a platoon catcher evaporates. The pitching staff has year-round institutional knowledge, and the lineup has a strong bat.

“There’s a guy who can really swing it and be elite on defense,” Mancini said. “It can’t be overstated how big it is.”

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