Is Ryan Mountcastle a Lock for AL Rookie of the Year?
Does Ryan Mountcastle have a strong enough case to be considered the AL Rookie of the Year favorite?
On Sunday, the Baltimore Orioles suffered a 12-4 loss north of the border against the Toronto Blue Jays in the final game of the 2021 regular season. With Baltimore’s season-long record coming to a close at 52-110, any hopes of postseason contention are well out of reach. However, a late power-hitting surge from rookie slugger Ryan Mountcastle may have the Orioles in a position to boast some hardware this winter.
Despite playing in 35 of the Orioles’ 60 games during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Mountcastle narrowly avoided breaking through the rookie eligibility threshold, maintaining his rookie status for 2021. During his brief 2020 campaign, Mountcastle slashed .333/.386/.492 with five home runs, recording an exit velocity of at least 95 MPH on an impressive 41.8% of his batted balls. This was the breakout Orioles fans were hoping for from their former top 100 prospect.
After celebrating his 24th birthday in February, Mountcastle entered his first full Major League season. A big part of Mountcastle’s entrenchment in the AL Rookie of the Year race is how well he managed to stay healthy throughout the season. Having just one brief 10-day injured list stint, Mountcastle appeared in 144 games for the Orioles this season.
In those 144 games, Mountcastle slashed .255/.309/.487, posting a wRC+ score that describes his performance at the plate as 11% better than league average. What Mountcastle lacks in on-base percentage, he makes up for with an outstanding barrel rate and one of the best max exit velocities across Major League Baseball.
Alongside Mountcastle, there is a busy field of candidates for Rookie of the Year in the American League. Leading the group in fWAR is Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, who hit 20 home runs and stole 20 bases this season. While those numbers will understandably garner votes, Mountcastle leads Arozarena in home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and strikeout rate, which should keep the Orioles’ rookie well within consideration.
What makes Mountcastle’s case for AL Rookie of the Year stand apart from the others is the historical significance of his numbers. Prior to Mountcastle’s 2n Orioles franchise history, no rookie has ever hit as many home runs as Mountcastle hit this season. Since moving to Baltimore in 1954, only two players in franchise history have hit move homers than Mountcastle in an age-24 season or younger: Manny Machado and Boog Powell.
While players such as Adolis Garcia, Wander Franco, and Akil Baddoo will definitely receive attention in the debate, Ryan Mountcastle seems to be in a good spot on the stat sheet to make a strong run at taking home the award.