2019 Level: AAA (Norfolk)
Tools (current/future value)
Game Power: 55/60
Raw Power: 60/60
Most Likely Future Role: Everyday Left Fielder/1st Baseman
Ceiling: Occasional All-Star
What we know: As one AL scout said about Mountcastle, “No questions about the bat!” The 22-year old cemented his status as a legitimate everyday major league prospect after being named the International League Most valuable player after slashing .312/.344/.527/.871 while splitting time between 1st base and Left Field later in the year. Mountcastle has quick hands and plenty of bat speed that barrels the ball often (29%) allowing him to wait on pitches and hit with power to all fields. He’s always been an aggressive hitter who rarely walks, and that was true for most of his AAA season as well, but a conversation with Orioles GM Mike Elias convinced him to take more pitches and resulted in him walking 10 times in 113 August PAs after walking just 14 times in 430 PAs up to that point. One thing to remember, if Mountcastle had gone to college, this would have been his first full minor league season. In comparison, at 22-years old, Trey Mancini slashed .284/.326/.409/.735 with 32 2Bs and 10 HR between Delmarva and Frederick, walking just 28 times in 586 PAs. Mountcastle collected 35 doubles, 25 home runs and walked 24 times in 553 PAs in AAA. One scout said that Mancini has a better approach at the plate, but Mountcastle has better hand speed, bat path and raw power. Defensively, under the new regime, Mountcastle was finally moved from the left side of the infield where his well below average arm was not going to play effectively at the major league level. He was first used at first base where he was a little stiff and tentative, but improved throughout the season. He was then moved out to left field and by August was playing it almost exclusively where he showed effective range and decent routes considering his inexperience. His arm plays up from left field where he showed an accurate arm to second base, but his throws home were still weak.
What we don’t know: A smart player, Mountcastle is able to make adjustments at the plate, but tends to swing at poor pitches earlier in the count, getting himself in bad counts too often. It was something he was improving on in August, but the question is whether he will continue to show that patience at the major league level. Also, until we have statcast numbers for his outfield play, it’s hard to accurately judge his jumps, burst speed and routes in left field. Nothing stood out that he wouldn’t be able to play effectively in left or first, but it’s still up in the air if he’ll ever be able to provide additional value defensively.
What we think: The good news is his bat should be special enough that the Orioles should live with his defensive short comings either in LF or 1B. While we do not expect him to break camp with the Orioles next year due to collective bargaining controllability issues, make no mistake, he is ready for the big leagues right now. as soon as the Orioles gain the extra year of control, we expect Mountcastle to be promoted and play every day in left field, 1st base and DH. While Mountcastle could end up a similar player to Mancini, right now he projects to be a slightly better player all around.
Another Take: Mountcastle has a beautiful right handed swing. He has the rare combination of premium bat speed and natural loft. I think he’s still an immature hitter, falling behind needlessly, giving away ABs. That hasn’t stopped him from being well above league average despite being young for the level. He’s going to be better than people think in LF and there is some sneaky ceiling if his approach develops. (Luke Siler)