With the feeling that players helping other players can produce positive results in addition to camaraderie and chemistry, the Orioles now have a player leadership group on the farm. Some of the players doing the leading in this group include Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Brett Cumberland, Isaac Mattson and Brian Gonzalez.
The O’s highest draft pick in 2014, taken No. 90 overall in round three, Gonzalez has seen his chance to make the majors get closer recently. The club added the left-hander to the 60-man player pool Aug. 7 and he’s at the Bowie alternate camp.
“I got a text from one of our players, Brett Cumberland, saying, ‘Hey, Matt Blood (director of player development) wants to put this group together and wants to create this leadership group for the younger guys coming in, and he thought you would be a good piece to it,’” Gonzalez recalled. “So, I said ‘Absolutely.’ We’re just trying to build some culture into the minor leagues and really trying to help the younger guys coming in transition. I know when I was younger there was that weird transitioning where, if you’re a rookie or you’re young, you kind of just stay in your place in the background and try to just move without being seen, really.
“We’re trying to change that. When I was in (short season Single-A) Aberdeen for two weeks (in 2019) I really enjoyed being around the young guys and trying to help them out. A lot of these little things the coaches might not tell you, the little things like travel or hotel or clubhouse etiquette, stuff like that gets passed along. So it’s a group of 10 or 11 of us that were picked, and we have Zoom calls every two weeks to talk about what we can do with younger guys or what we can change in each clubhouse and the culture around it.
“It got passed along to the big league coaches and they loved it. So hopefully in the next couple of months we get some transition to the whole organization and just build a unique environment where players have seamless transitions to the pros.”
After spending six seasons in the minors, Gonzalez knows his way around. He was a starter through 2018 but moved to the bullpen at Double-A Bowie last season. He went 0-2 with a 4.32 ERA. But over 41 2/3 innings he allowed just 33 hits, walked 11 and fanned 35. Hitters batted only .209 against him and he recorded a 1.06 WHIP. If the O’s need lefty ‘pen help in the bigs, he is a candidate to join the club.
He has embraced the data, technology and analytics the new front office brought to the organization last year. But he learned that, while all of the information can help him in the bullpen, he has to change his focus when the game starts.
“When you are in the bullpen and you have the TrackMan or Edgertronic (camera) on you, that is the time to tweak on some stuff to get some information,” Gonzalez said. “But for me, when I’m on the mound, I don’t really think about that stuff. I want to compete and go after guys and get guys out. I learned a couple of years ago when I would try to produce perfect mechanics or put a stat line up that would impress people, I just realized that wasn’t working for me. When it’s bullpen time, it’s time to work on stuff, but when you are facing hitters it’s time to go work, compete and get guys out no matter what.”
Mountcastle’s plate discipline: This kid’s low walk total on the farm has been discussed and scrutinized often. But Orioles general manager Mike Elias said over the weekend that Ryan Mountcastle had walked more than he struck out at the Bowie alternate camp. O’s skipper Brandon Hyde said that Mountcastle’s walk total isn’t the point.
“For me, it’s not really walks, it’s about correct swing decisions and being able to not chase pitches out of the zone to get yourself in better counts a lot of time,” Hyde said. “Young hitters, a lot of time, are aggressive early in the count, and that can put themselves in disadvantage counts in which it’s impossible to hit here in the big leagues.
“I think Ryan has done a nice job of zoning in early in the count, getting stuff he can drive. And not chasing an elevated fastball or the slider down below. So it’s not as much the walks as it is getting in good counts where he can do damage. And that is what he has done a nice job of so far.”
Mountcastle walked for the fourth time in four games in the second inning Tuesday, and then produced a nice swing to drive a ball into right to score a run on a single in the fourth. It was his first major league RBI. He later fanned twice.
Through four games he is batting .333 (4-for-12) with four walks to five strikeouts. His OBP Is .400 and his OPS is 1.000.
Will some of these guys be traded?: MLBTradeRumors.com has listed its projection of the top 50 players to be traded by next Monday’s deadline. The list is peppered with current and former Orioles. Dylan Bundy is No. 3 and Kevin Gausman No. 7. They list O’s relievers Mychal Givens and Miguel Castro at No. 16 and No. 17. Hanser Alberto is No. 22 and Alex Cobb is No. 28.
Also on this list are former Oriole Mike Yastrzemski at No. 42 and lefty reliever Josh Hader at No. 50. Hader was the O’s 19th-round pick out of Anne Arundel County’s Old Mill High School in 2012. At the trade deadline the following year he went with outfielder L.J. Hoes and a competitive-balance-round draft pick to the Houston Astros for pitcher Bud Norris.