The Moving Parts of Ryan Mountcastle

Norfolk Tides IF Ryan Mountcastle - photo credit Ryan Palencer, @RyanPalencer on Twitter

While on the brink of the Major Leagues, Ryan Mountcastle has played three different positions in as many seasons in the Orioles system. The reasoning is simple: his bat is way too valuable to not locate a place to play it.

Mountcastle has a swing that could be put as violently controlled. There are a lot of moving parts, including a leg kick at the beginning. However, the Orioles top prospect is not looking to change anything at all with the swing that has him where he is – next stop, Baltimore.

“I have always had the same type of swing,” Mountcastle said. “It is just what feels comfortable for me. I have done it for a long time now, so timing-wise I think I get on time pretty well, even with the leg kick.”

For approach, Mountcastle says that he is just looking for a pitch that he can drive, regardless of count. His only goal is to drive in runs and help the team win. He is doing just that with 41 RBI in 50 games for Norfolk this season through the end of May. The power plays well also, with 11 home runs and 13 doubles over the same span. However, he is certainly not just flailing away at the dish. He sports a just over 20 percent strike out rate, which is strong for a young power hitter in today’s game.

“For a young guy in this league, to be hitting in the middle of the lineup and doing as well as he is, (is impressive),” Norfolk manager Gary Kendall said. “He has a track record of hitting. He has been doing a really nice job for us, not just hitting home runs, but also driving in runs, doubles, moving guys. Just offensively, he has not been a surprise, but his maturity with how he has handled being in the middle of the lineup in Triple-A at 22-years-old has been impressive.”

Kendall has worked with Mountcastle for a number of years now, dating back to instructional leagues and the past two minor league seasons. While Kendall admits that Mountcastle will occasionally chase a bad pitch, he said one of the most impressive thing about his approach is the necessary in-game adjustments that he makes. Along with those adjustments, Kendall said that Mountcastle is always open to instruction as well to help get him to the next level.

While there have been reports that the Orioles might try him in the outfield also, Mountcastle has primarily played first base this season, after moving to third last year. A natural shortstop when he was drafted, it was no surprise that he was too big to play up the middle. Combined with his power, Mountcastle projects well in either a corner outfield or infield position. The athleticism that he has shown to play all of these positions projects well for his versatility as well.

However, with some players, learning a new position every year might take away from the work, preparation, and ultimately the final numbers at the plate. This is not true with Mountcastle. Outside of the 2017 Arizona Fall League, Mountcastle has raised his OPS every single season.

“I just get my work in every day,” Mountcastle said. “I take some extra ground balls or whatever it is during BP. Playing first now, I am starting to feel pretty comfortable over there. It doesn’t really effect my hitting at all I think.”

While fielding percentage is an overrated stat many times, it still cannot be understated that Mountcastle has committed just three errors in 297 chances at first base this season. The in-game adjustment has not been that big otherwise for Mountcastle, who is willing to play wherever in order to get to the big leagues.

“Footwork around the bag, things like that (have been the learning areas),” Mountcastle said. “We have been working on some different bunt plays and things like that. Besides that, I played third, another corner infield spot. It is not that much different.”

Regardless of where he is on the field, Mountcastle will soon find his way into the heart of the Baltimore Orioles line up. With his past, expect him to stay and drive in runs for years to come.

Ryan Palencer is a lifelong baseball fan who covers the Triple-A International League upper level MiLB prospects. He is located in Indianapolis, which features the AAA Indians. Ryan has covered Minor League, Major League, and All-Star games with Pirates Prospects prior to joining Prospects1500. Follow him on Twitter @RyanPalencer.

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