Double-A Bowie third baseman Ryan Mountcastle might be making up for some lost time with his bat. He didn’t begin his season at Bowie until May 10, but as June comes to an end, his bat has heated up for the Baysox.
On June 23 at Richmond, Mountcastle went 6-for-7 in a doubleheader. It was part of a run where he had 12 hits in 16 at-bats. And that was part of a stretch where, over his last 10 games, he is batting .447 (17-for-38). It raised his season OPS from .763 to .842.
The 21-year-old Mountcastle was a non-roster invitee to big league camp for spring training, but was moved over to minor league camp after he suffered an injury. In mid-March, in a minor league spring game he was hit in the hand and suffered a hairline fracture of the right hand. But he came back and is not limited in any way.
“I feel perfectly fine,” he said this week during an interview at Prince George’s Stadium. “My hand is feeling good. I came back pretty fast and feel ready to go. I have to thank the training staff over in Sarasota for getting me back on the field. I’m grateful to them.”
Mountcastle was promoted from Single-A Frederick to Bowie last season on July 20 at 20. He was one of the youngest players in the Eastern League. He hit .222/.239/.366 in 39 games. So far this year in 48 games, he is batting .305/.359/.483 with six doubles, two triples, seven homers, 30 RBIs and a .842 OPS.
Bowie manager Gary Kendall said Mountcastle recently made some minor adjustments that helped produce a red-hot bat.
“Earlier this year, there were times he was kind of getting bent over in his swing and wasn’t staying upright and tall, and he was vulnerable on some pitches and hitting around the ball,” said Kendall. “Now he’s driving the ball to all fields. Keith Bodie (Baysox hitting coach) worked hard with him to be erect and stand tall and utilize his size and strength and bat speed. He’s been on fire and has given us a whole lot in the middle of the lineup.
“He was tall in his setup, but when he would commit to the baseball, he was kind of getting turned to the side and not in a good strong position when he was swinging. Keith got him to stand a little taller and see the ball so his head was not moving and this allowed him to use the whole field.”
No one is surprised that Mountcastle’s bat has caught up to Eastern League pitching. Over the winter, he was ranked as baseball’s No. 65 prospect by Baseball Prospectus, No. 71 by Baseball America and No. 98 by MLBPipeline.com.
Kendall thinks Mountcastle could be a batter that reaches the majors and hits for both average and power when he gets there.
“I think he is very hitterish,” Kendall said. “He’s got very good bat speed, good hands and the ball jumps off his bat. He has the ability to hit the breaking ball the other way. A lot of it is created by bat speed. He’s got quick hands.
“I’ve seen guys that sometimes get a fastball by him, but when they go back to that spot again, they are not able to do it. It’s exciting. He’s a good-looking young hitter. He’s receptive to coaching. He brings a lot to the table and being so young, there is a lot more upside to this guy.”
Mountcastle is drawing more walks this year and he feels he’s making improvements in recognizing pitches, especially breaking balls.
“I feel like I’ve had a better eye this year and have drawn some more walks and that’s a good sign. Just seeing the ball a lot better,” he said.
I asked Mountcastle what he wants to work on during the rest of this season.
“Offensively, just staying with my approach and trying to hit the ball hard. I need to have a good game plan every day. Defensively, just trying to get in a lot of reps at third and starting to feel better over there,” he said.
While some in the scouting community continue to express the opinion that Mountcastle won’t have the arm strength to stay at third base in the majors, he made several nice plays in the field when I watched the Baysox on Tuesday night.
“I think he’s getting better,” said Kendall. “He’s reading hops better and I think his arm is getting a little better. We’re trying to get him to get rid of the ball faster. He made a couple of nice plays on some in-between hops recently. I see progress from a year ago, yeah.”
Yesterday, the Baysox announced that Mountcastle had been selected as an Eastern League All-Star and he’ll play in the game in Trenton on July 11. In 2017, he was both a mid-season and postseason All-Star for Frederick in the Carolina League.