The Baltimore Orioles and General Manager Mike Elias have been busy recently. The team not only reached agreements with their arbitration-eligible players, Hanser Alberto, Miguel Castro, Mychal Givens and Trey Mancini, but also added infielders Jose Iglesias and Richard Urena.
The additions of Iglesias (free agent signing) and Urena (waiver claim), in particular, have me wondering what the 2020 season has in store for infield prospect Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle, the team’s #4 ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline, was added to the 40-man roster back in November and was expected to compete for a spot on the 26-man roster in Spring Training.
Considered by some as a Major League ready bat without a position, Mountcastle himself may even be wondering where he fits in. Iglesias now joins Rio Ruiz, Alberto, Mancini and even the albatross that is Chris Davis in the infield. Urena seems slated to join Richie Martin and Stevie Wilkerson as a candidate for the utility-infield position. With all that being said, where does Mountcastle fit in?
The Norfolk Tides did play Mountcastle some in the outfield but with Mancini, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and DJ Stewart in the outfield mix at the Major League level, where does Mountcastle fit in there?
Mountcastle, the Orioles 2015 first round draft pick, has nothing left to prove in AAA. He slashed .312/ .344/ .527/ .871 with 25 homeruns, 83 RBI and 81 runs scored for the Tides. He was named the International League’s MVP as well as the Baltimore Orioles Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year.
I feel that Mountcastle gains nothing by possibly being optioned back to Norfolk in 2020. Does the team want him riding the “Norfolk shuttle”? Is he envisioned as only a DH type of player and if so, how does he fit in with Davis and Renato Nunez?
Barring a trade or something else unexpected, Mountcastle seems, in my opinion, to be on the outside looking in and I am not sure that is a good thing for his development as a player. I have to wonder if this isn’t Elias’ way to challenge Mountcastle to work on certain aspects of his game (low walk rate) at the Minor League level.
I understand that Mountcastle was added to the 40-man in order to protect him from the Rule-5 Draft but I fear that the Orioles’ recent moves send the message to the 22 year-old that they may not feel he is ready.