Baltimore Orioles: Ryan Mountcastle’s most important spring

SARASOTA, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Ryan Mountcastle #79 of the Baltimore Orioles bats during a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium on February 23, 2018 in Sarasota, Florida. The Rays won 6-3. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
SARASOTA, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Ryan Mountcastle #79 of the Baltimore Orioles bats during a Grapefruit League spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Ed Smith Stadium on February 23, 2018 in Sarasota, Florida. The Rays won 6-3. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Ryan Mountcastle faces an important spring with the Baltimore Orioles.

As MLB Spring Training begins, fans are deluged with “one for every team” articles, sometimes written by one, sometimes written by many. For a last place team like the Baltimore Orioles, poverty-stricken partisans are panning a lot of stream water with such pieces, looking for golden nuggets of hope.

It was, then, important to those Baltimore fans to see MLB.com select Ryan Mountcastle as the O’s “one prospect to watch” for their Feb. 13 compendium of 30 hopeful young players. Mountcastle is a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder who is identified in the MLB.com piece as a first baseman/outfielder. However, Fangraphs.com indicates that he is a third baseman/shortstop. CBSSports.com lists him as a shortstop.

So…he’s apparently a large, modern shortstop. Sort of.

All right, that sort of explains his number 94 prospect ranking by MLB.com despite his being last year’s International League MVP. (Dear God above, don’t send us anymore “super-utilitymen.” Just give him one glove.)

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Mountcastle slashed .312/.344/.527 with 25 homers in his first season with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, and Joe Trezza, the MLB.com writer who wrote the paragraph on the player, opines that he “could make a run at the Opening Day roster with a good showing in Grapefruit League play.” Also, for what it’s worth, Mountcastle is that rare high school first-round draft pick actually ready for consideration as ready for The Bigs about when he might have been finishing college if he had gone on with schooling.

Baltimore Orioles fans can only hope all that is not a mass of false indicators after Austin Hays and his slow progress toward the big club after a college career.

What are some of the other reasons to have hope about Mountcastle? He is the Fangraphs.com fourth-ranked player in the O’s organization, but the top player with Triple-A experience, which arguably means he is also their number one Orioles minor-league player.

Fangraphs.com ratings for Mountcastle are seemingly promising as well, as are videos of his play.

Let’s start with the ratings – all reasonably or very good by any measure (or percentages) – 50/55 for hitting, 35/40 for fielding (anywhere, I suppose), a perfect 60/60 for raw power, and so forth. Videos show potential fans a right-handed hitter with quick hands, if not quite as quick as Andrew McCutchen’s hands when he was 23. He has good power to all fields and runs well.

Fans will begin to see how often and where Mountcastle plays this spring beginning Feb. 22 in North Port, FL, against the Atlanta Braves. Expect the Baltimore Orioles to play him fairly often while they try to resolve what Trezza refers to as “the questions regarding his plate discipline and defensive home.”

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O’s fans hope the plate discipline matter is something Mountcastle merely needs reminders about because, well, .312 in Triple-A already demonstrates reasonable judgment in and of itself (but you never know). Where his glove fits may be another matter.