Some Orioles Gold Glove leftovers

Ryan Mountcastle was drafted by the Orioles as a shortstop in 2015, the 36th-overall selection out of a Florida high school with bat skills that figured to stamp his ticket to the majors. Evaluators assured that he’d hit at any level.

But where to play him?

The arm didn’t work at short, leading some members of the organization to quickly push for a position change. Others were slower to concede.

Valuable time was lost, and that created some friction. As if more of it was needed behind the scenes.

The Orioles decided to try him at third base full-time in 2018 after his 16 starts in the Arizona Fall League. They introduced him to left field the following year at Triple-A Norfolk, setting up his major league debut in 2020. But the career-changer came with the commitment to first base, where he made 82 starts in 2021 and 123 in ‘22.

Mountcastle found his spot. And yesterday, he learned of his nomination for a Rawlings Gold Glove.

That was, for me, the No. 1 takeaway from the announcements.

The mitt is catching up to the bat.

Ramón Urías was a surprise Gold Glove winner last season after making only 84 starts at third base. Mountcastle made 86 starts and 90 appearances at first base this year totaling 769 1/3 innings, his two trips to the injured list with vertigo and shoulder inflammation reducing his workload, but he became a finalist along with the Yankees’ Anthony Rizzo and the Rangers’ Nathaniel Lowe.

He isn’t the favorite, but being in the conversation now is a tremendous accomplishment. And it didn’t happen by accident.

No one put in more practice time to improve than Mountcastle, who committed only two errors in 716 chances. His ultimate zone rating ticked up from 0.6 to 1.7, per Statcast data, and his defensive runs saved from one to two.

Austin Hays and Adley Rutschman were the more anticipated finalists yesterday. Hays’ omission would have been a crime. Robbery like the type he kept committing with his diving catches.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora offered his opinion of Rutschman during the final regular season series.

“Behind the plate, it’s a different vibe since he got here," Cora said. "The kid is like (Joe) Mauer and (Buster) Posey when they showed up. He enjoys playing the game. He hustles all the time. I can talk about him forever.”

Orioles' manager Brandon Hyde feels like he's already done it.

Hyde surely will celebrate the three nominees and wonder how Cedric Mullins could be snubbed.

Hyde routinely would describe Mullins’ play in center field as “Gold Glove defense.” Mullins was a finalist in 2022, which usually works in a player’s favor. But he was rated behind the Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez, the Blue Jays’ Kevin Kiermaier and the White Sox’s Luis Robert Jr.

The defensive metrics don't always illuminate Mullins in a favorable light, but if you watch him on a daily basis, you come to question his minus-1.4 ultimate zone rating that represented a major regression from 3.8 in 2022. His defensive runs saved improved from five to seven.

I wondered whether Gunnar Henderson would fall into the utility category, created by Rawlings last year. His 68 starts at third base and 64 at shortstop denied him consideration at those positions, though it should be pointed out that his 10 defensive runs saved at short, per Statcast, ranked third in the American League, while Carlos Correa and Corey Seager, two of the finalists, were 65th and sixth, respectively.

Henderson could bounce around the left side of the infield again next season, especially after Jackson Holliday’s arrival – whether on Opening Day, or more likely, a relatively short time later.

Holliday also plays second base, and I’ve talked to scouts from other organizations who think that double play combination makes the most sense for the Orioles. It’s not a knock on Holliday, but one scout says Henderson has a “two-grade better arm.”

“I always liked (Henderson) as a player,” Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. said in a recent interview with “He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast. He seems to understand the game. And he’s doing it at multiple positions So, he’s really fun.”

Ripken knows a thing or two about moving between shortstop and third base, though he did it as a full-time starter at the positions. And he certainly understands the benefits of the flexibility of the Orioles’ roster and ability to “utilize it in a lot of different ways.”

“I guess I’m an advocate of not having a jack of all trades but a master of one,” he said. “So me, personally, I love how Gunnar plays shortstop. But he seems to be able to interchange without any sort of problem going third to short. It’s a little like Manny Machado when you saw his skill set at short and then he went to third and he applied that skill set over there and made some remarkable plays. Gunnar has that same ability.

“I guess for me, though, I would like to see him develop as a shortstop. And he’s so young, he’s going to get better and he’s going to get better, so I don’t know what his ceiling is, but it’s pretty high.”

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