From the Minor League Ball mailbag:
Hello John. I am an Orioles fan looking for something to be happy about and I saw that Ryan Mountcastle has played well since coming back from his injury. What’s your take on him?
Niko from Windsor, Virginia
Good catch, Niko.
Ryan Mountcastle has indeed hit well since returning from the broken hand suffered in spring training. He’s played eight games for Double-A Bowie after being activated on May 10th, going 11-for-30 (.367) with two doubles, two walks, and two strikeouts so far.
Tiny sample, of course, but a fast start is better than a slow one and seeing him hit well after recovering from a fractured metacarpal is a good sign. Hand injuries can mess up hitters pretty easily even after they have technically recovered but he doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects thus far.
Mountcastle entered spring training as number two on my Baltimore Orioles Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list with this comment:
2) Ryan Mountcastle, INF, Grade B/B+: Age 20, first round pick in 2015 from high school in Oviedo, Florida; hit .314/.343/.542 with 15 homers, 14 walks, 61 strikeouts in 360 at-bats in High-A, but just .222/.239/.366 with three walks, 35 strikeouts in 153 at-bats in Double-A; strike zone got away from him at the higher level, granted he was very young for the Eastern League; combined for 48 doubles; plenty of bat speed and hasn’t fully tapped his power yet; obviously needs some work with the strike zone but pure hitting skills draw praise, giving him a good chance to adjust; played shortstop at High-A and third base in Double-A, not a complete butcher at either spot but his arm is marginal and many observers believe he’ll end up at left field or first base eventually; there are risks here but offensive upside is quite high. ETA 2020.
Nothing has happened to change any of that yet.
Another reason to be happy about the fast start is that Mountcastle struggled after being promoted to Double-A last summer, seeming to lose his feel for the strike zone, but so far he’ s managed it well in ‘18.
The other two questions are home run power and defense, as he is officially a third baseman now. Yes, yes, small sample so all questions remain open, but at least the early returns are in his favor. Given his age I think there’s good reason for optimism in all respects in the medium and long terms. He also has the all-important Cool Name tool.
Bottom line, Niko: yes, Mountcastle is someone to be happy about. He needs experience and probably won’t reach the majors until sometime in 2019, but he is certainly one of the brightest spots in the organization and will be a key factor in any rebuilding project.