After the first day of full-squad workouts, we found out that one Baltimore Orioles prospect might be switching positions, again.
Changes are coming for the Baltimore Orioles. It’s hard to not be excited about what is on the horizon for this franchise as piece by piece and bit by bit, Mike Elias and his new front office regime put their touches on a franchise coming off one of the worst seasons in Orioles’ history.
From new front office hires, including a brand new analytics team, to international complex upgrades, to the very beginnings of establishing a presence on the international scouting scene, Mike Elias is laying the foundation for future on-field improvements.
Monday was the first official day of workouts for position players, marking the first full-squad practice of 2019 for the Baltimore Orioles. There was plenty of positive news coming out of Sarasota yesterday, from healthy sessions by Nate Karns and Hunter Harvey, to a beautiful video of top prospect Yusniel Diaz showing off his powerful stick in batting practice.
Doesn’t that sound just take you to a magical place?
The most surprising news of the day came from The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli. Per Meoli’s report, Orioles’ prospect Ryan Mountcastle worked primarily at first base during the first full day of camp. New O’s skipper Brandon Hyde was quoted as saying, “Without referring to anyone specifically, manager Brandon Hyde said that it was fair to assume that players were in their primary positions Monday for the first day of workouts.”
Mountcastle’s bat has never been in question, it’s always been his fielding. Originally a shortstop, he was moved due to his inconsistent ability to make throws and field the position. His move to third base was also met with skepticism, so much so that offseason talk among fans and evaluators have thrown around the idea of Mountcastle trying out second base and Fangraphs listing him as a left fielder on their list of top 32 Baltimore Orioles prospects.
The 22-year-old, former first-round pick of the O’s possesses, arguably, the top bat in the system, which has continued to develop year after year.
Mountcastle is coming off a season with the Bowie Baysox in which he hit .297, slugged 13 home runs, dropped his strikeout rate to 18.5%, and increased his walk rate to 6.1%, a big increase from his 1.9% walk rate in a 39-game stint with Bowie in 2017. Few minor league hitters showed the consistent uptick in average flyball distance that Mountcastle did, beginning the year between 280-290 feet to ending the year averaging 310-320 feet on his flyballs, showcasing his quick hands and pull-power at the plate (per Minor Graphs).
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"“I feel good over there,” Mountcastle said. “I got some extra work in today, working on some picks and footwork, stuff like that. I feel good. It’s picking up pretty easily, I think.”"
Positive words from Mountcastle after his first day of practice at first base. This potential move can bring a lot of positives with it. The Orioles need to find any way they can to get Mountcastle’s bat in the lineup (after he’s proven that he is ready with some time in AAA) and if first base provides that path, I’m all for it.
Mark Trumbo isn’t going to be back next year and could find his way onto a different roster by this year’s trade deadline, if he can come back healthy and produce. Despite the monster contract of Chris Davis and the desire to move Trey Mancini back to first base, it’s going to be hard to block the one position player with the highest ceiling in the organization, should his comfort level at first base translate into adequate play on the field.
It has become clear that Mountcastle isn’t going to be playing on the left side of the infield at the major league level. A move to left field has always made little sense to me, especially with outfielders Cedric Mullins, DJ Stewart, Austin Hays, Yusniel Diaz, and Ryan McKenna all up and coming. There’s now a new storyline to follow in spring training, one that could end up forcing ownership to make a big decision about what to do with their current starter at first base.
What other big changes are on the horizon for this roster? I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out.