Ryan Mountcastle has put himself in the conversation for American League Rookie of the Year.
He’s also close to making history with the Orioles.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound first baseman hit his 25th home run of the season in the third inning Aug. 30 against the Toronto Blue Jays, moving him ahead Trey Mancini (24 homers in 2017) for the third most by an O’s rookie in club history. He trails only Cal Ripken (28 in 1982) and Eddie Murray (27 in 1977) for the all-time lead.
“He’s swinging the bat great,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Love to see him [hitting] opposite-field home runs. I’ve said that a bunch. [He’s] got a ton of ability and he’s going to be a good player in this league, and he’s showing his power right now.”
Mountcastle has been hitting second recently for the Orioles. He has hit five home runs in 10 games batting in the two-hole, compared to nine homers in 46 games batting cleanup. On Aug 29 against the Rays, batting second, he homered in the third inning and also singled in the first, fifth and seventh innings for his third career four-hit game.
Mountcastle, 24, had some early struggles this year as he adjusted to major-league pitching. He batted just .198 with one homer, seven RBIs and 30 strikeouts in the month of April. He made some adjustments, namely getting rid of his traditional leg kick and getting into rhythm with his timing, and then began to see better results.
Mountcastle is batting .364/.405/.803 with five doubles, eight home runs and 16 RBIs this month. Since May 1, he is hitting .288/.339/.564 with 16 doubles, 24 homers and 66 RBIs.
“That first month was definitely rough, but I think a lot of players go through it,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of how I’ve handled it and come back pretty strong in the second half of the year.”
Mountcastle was selected by the Orioles as a shortstop in the first round (No. 36 overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft and faced immediate expectations.
In 2019, he was named the Orioles Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year. Mountcatsle also won the International League MVP — the first player from the Norfolk Tides to be named league MVP since Roberto Petagine in 1997.
Mountcastle was also named the Orioles’ Minor League Player of the Year by Baseball America in 2019 after batting.312/.344/.527 with 35 doubles, one triple, 25 home runs, 81 runs, and 83 RBIs with the Tides. He also led the International League with 162 hits.
He was eventually called up to the Orioles last season and made an immediate impact.
Mountcastle ranked first among AL rookies in on-base percentage (.386); tied for first in three-hit games (5); second in OPS (.878), batting average (.333) and slugging (.492); third in multi-hit games (14); fifth in hits (42); tied for sixth in RBIs (23), and eighth in home runs (5).
He was voted to Baseball Digest’s 2020 MLB Rookie All-Star Team as one of three outfielders. His 30 hits and 19 RBI in 26 games in September led the Orioles.
Now, Mountcastle is a vital cog in the Orioles’ massive rebuilding project. While he’d rather be winning games and sitting atop the standings, Mountcastle has to be pleased with his performance this season.
“You want to go out there and win every day,” Mountcastle said. “It’s obviously a lot more fun when you win. I’ve just got to keep working hard. We’re all going to keep pounding away the rest of the season and hopefully get some more wins down the stretch here.”
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