While it should be fun to watch the Orioles play if Major League Baseball can indeed safely get the shortened 2020 season up and running, it could be even more fun with a certain outfield alignment.
Yep, that would be fun.
Probably no reason we don’t see that during the 2020 season, even if we don’t see it on opening day. Mountcastle’s debut was expected to come at some point this year before the coronavirus hit and he was added to the 40-man roster last November. He’s put in all the stops on the farm and has gotten extensive at-bats at the highest levels with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
With Trey Mancini going to miss the entire season, there’s more time open in the outfield. The Orioles could use some pop in the lineup to try and replace Mancini. Why not Mountcastle?
If the club chose to hold him out for a few games to make sure they get a seventh year of play from the young slugger, it wouldn’t take much. Estimates are if he is not activated for the first five to seven days of the season, that could be enough to keep a player from qualifying for a full year of service time. If you come up just short, the seventh year with the team is assured. We’ve seen teams hold players out for 16-18 days during the normal 162-game seasons to take care of this. This season it will be even fewer days needed and a week might be enough.
Ironically, we can compare Mountcastle to Mancini in terms of major league readiness. Mountcastle actually now has more minor league plate appearances (2,217) then Mancini had (2.053) when Mancini made his major league debut in September 2016. Both played four years on the farm, Mancini from 2013-2016 and Mountcastle from 2015-2019.
Mancini played parts of two years at Bowie for a total of 101 games and had 429 plate appearances for the Baysox. For Mountcastle, those numbers are 141 and 587. At Norfolk, Mancini played 125 games with 536 plate appearances. For Mountcastle, the Triple-A numbers are 127 and 553.
Mancini at Bowie - .350/.399/.604 with 33 doubles, three triples, 20 homers and 71 RBIs.
Mountcastle at Bowie - .276/.313/.437 with 32 doubles, four triples, 16 homers and 74 RBIs.
Mancini at Norfolk - .280/.349/.427 with 22 doubles, five triples, 13 homers and 54 RBIs.
Mountcastle at Norfolk - .312/.344/.527 with 35 doubles, one triple, 25 homers and 83 RBIs.
Mancini in minor league career - .306/.357/.472 with an OPS of .829
Mountcastle in minor league career - .295/.328/.471 with an OPS of .799.
It should be exciting for Orioles fans to dream on a future lineup that includes players like Mountcastle, Hays, Santander, Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad. Perhaps at some point, the Orioles re-sign Mancini to add to that and lead the whole show.
One possible argument against getting such a young prospect big playing time this year is that it’s such a strange year. Why use up service time during a 60-game season? But with no Minor League Baseball this year and no guarantees that players will even get to play intrasquad games, the kid could use some at-bats. No reason to set back his development at a time when he’s on the cusp of his major league debut.
The 2020 season is a rebuilding year for the Orioles, just as it was going to be had opening day happened in March. It’s just a shorter version. Mountcastle could use the reps and he’s ready. It’s time to see what he can do. I get the thought about preserving service time, but some players just reach a point where you have to see what they can do, and for Mountcastle, it’s time.
By the way, Mountcastle is not even yet on the Orioles’ 60-man player pool, which stands at 44. Maybe that’s a strong indication that he won’t be on the opening night roster. But I do think his time is coming at some point in 2020.
But how big a role will he play?