The Stewart/Mountcastle connection and Villar’s shot for 20/20

Current Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle, very likely a future Oriole, have played together as teammates in the minor leagues. But they have ties beyond that.

Not only were they the O’s top two picks in the 2015 draft - Stewart taken No. 25 overall and Mountcastle No. 36 - but both have strong relationships with Jered Goodwin, who was Mountcastle’s head coach at Hagerty High School in Florida. He later coached Stewart with the FTB Mizuno premier travel team in Florida. Goodwin now works for Perfect Game and remains a strong friend and advisor of sorts to both players. He’s like family, Stewart said.

So Stewart’s friendship with Mountcastle predates both joining the Orioles. And Stewart is a big believer in what Mountcastle might do in the majors one day with the bat.

Mountcastle-Trots-White-sidebar.jpg“He has shown me he can hit since Day One,” Stewart said. “Just to see the success he is having, it’s unbelievable. He showed he can hit from the start. He’s played different positions, making his game even more well-rounded.”

Mountcastle homered again in Game 2 of Triple-A Norfolk’s doubleheader last night. For the season, he is batting .311 with 30 doubles, a triple, 25 homers, 80 RBIs and an OPS of .876.

“That bat plays at every single level. He’ll get adjusted to whatever position they want with more reps. That bat, though, definitely plays,” Stewart said.

Mountcastle has four homers and nine RBIs over his past seven games. In August, he’s batting .288/.376/.589 with an OPS of .966. Mountcastle has produced an OPS of .962 in 39 games since the All-Star break.

I asked Stewart for a further scouting report of sorts on Mountcastle as a batter.

“Solid bat speed, for one. But he has the power and ability to hit the ball to all fields,” Stewart said. “A lot of teams will shift him and miss their spot and throw it outside, thinking he’ll pull everything, and instead he’ll take the single or hit it that way. He’s not up there looking to kill everything. He takes his shots where he can do damage, but he’s a well-rounded and very smart hitter.”

Villar approaching 20/20: After his latest homer last night, No. 19 against Tampa Bay, the Orioles’ Jonathan Villar is now one homer away from becoming the sixth player in club history with 20 or more homers and steals in the same season.

Villar is trying to join this list:
* Paul Blair, 1969 (26 homers, 20 stolen bases)
* Don Baylor, 1975 (25 homers, 32 stolen bases)
* Reggie Jackson, 1976 (27 homers, 28 stolen bases)
* Brady Anderson (20-homer, 20-stolen base seasons in 1992, 1996, 1999)
* Manny Machado, 2015 (35 homers, 20 stolen bases)

“I don’t really think too much about that (20/20),” Villar said before Saturday’s game. “It would be unbelievable to do that. But if I think about hitting homers, I won’t hit any homers. I don’t want to change my swing at all, so trying not to think about that.”

Villar recorded his team-leading 43rd multi-hit game in the win over the Rays and his sixth multi-hit performance in his last 10 games. In August, he is batting .341 with 13 extra-base hits in 23 games.

“He’s really playing good baseball offensively,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s going to be a potential 20-20 guy. That’s not easy to do. He’s got so many tools. Love his tools. Think he’s been a little bit more consistent offensively in the second half. Huge power, especially from the left side. And obviously has the speed tool.

“He’s just taking better at-bats in the second half and his OPS is rising. It’s around .800 right now. Just done a really nice job. Like to see him get more stolen bases. But we’ve been behind so much this year. If we were a team that was playing with the lead quite a bit, he’d probably have 40. He’d be a higher stolen base guy on a better club.”

After last night’s 7-1 win, the Orioles’ seven-game homestand ends today against the Rays. A win this afternoon would give the O’s a 2-2 split in this series and a 4-3 homestand.

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