In 2019, it was pretty easy to tell who the Orioles’ most developed and dominant hitter in the minor leagues was. First baseman Ryan Mountcastle was rewarded for his stellar 2019 season by being named the International League MVP.
The 22-year-old was unstoppable at the plate but was never called up to Baltimore throughout the season. Let’s take a look at what went right for Mountcastle and what the prospect needs to improve upon to make it up to Camden Yards.
First and foremost, Mountcastle’s swing and power make him the top hitter in Baltimore’s farm system as well as arguably one of the best minor league hitters in 2019. The 6’3” right-handed infielder has a pure swing through his tall frame that should allow him to become a regular in future Orioles lineups.
Through 127 games in Triple-A Norfolk, Mountcastle maintained a .312 batting average while leading the league with 162 hits and 274 total bases. The Norfolk star player also hit a career-high 83 RBIs and 25 home runs. The Florida-native is the first International League MVP for the Norfolk Tides since Roberto Petagine did so in 1997.
Plate discipline was an issue for Mountcastle, who struck out 130 times and only drew 24 walks. However, Orioles fans should be accustomed to first basemen who strike out frequently (we’re talking about you, Chris Davis), so we’ll let this one slide for the time being.
Mountcastle has the swing and build that clearly makes him the best hitter in Baltimore’s farm system, but what should we make of his fielding?
Regarding his overall defensive versatility, this season in Norfolk allowed Mountcastle to get a feel for multiple positions around the diamond.
After being converted from third base to first base upon being called up from Double-A Bowie, Mountcastle received some work in left field this year for the Tides. Fielding has been a weakness for Mountcastle, but if nothing else his versatility will allow Brandon Hyde to fit him into the lineup in creative ways.
Mountcastle’s arm is a weak part of his game, but the young prospect will be working to improve upon that aspect this offseason. After seeing him in Norfolk this season, I think his foot work and improvement defensively still makes third base his ideal position.
At just 22 years old, Mountcastle still has plenty of time to improve upon his defense. As the number four prospect in the O’s system, I think next season will be ideal for him to get his first taste of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. With the quality defensive players the Orioles already have on the roster, Mountcastle can grow defensively while attempting to get his bat acclimated to the big leagues.
For Mountcastle, 2019 was a career season that gave Orioles fans a big reason to be excited for the future. After a truly deserved MVP title year, 2020 could be an exciting year for Mountcastle at Camden Yards.