“I think year two is always difficult,” manager Brandon Hyde said today via Zoom of the challenges facing Mountcastle in 2021. “When you get to the big leagues, there is not a whole lot of major league data on you. But now that Ryan got some at-bats, teams are going to dissect how to try and get him out from the previous year. Year two is about making adjustments back to the league.
“I was really impressed with Ryan’s strike zone discipline last year. Strike zone discipline and athleticism is something we talked with him about the last couple years. He really took to heart, did a great job at the secondary site and carried it into when he got with us and played for the last month-plus. That is just going to be something he’ll have to continue to be able to do. Handle the strike zone and swing at strikes. He’s got so much ability. So much raw power, athleticism, great hands. That it’s all about zone management for him. So just continuing to understand what pitchers are trying to do with him, understanding what he can and can’t handle. And looking for mistakes in the middle of the plate.”
Mountcastle, 24, finally made his long-awaited debut Aug. 21 and then put together a strong 35 games. He hit .333/.386/.492/.878 with five doubles, five homers and 23 RBIs. He ranked first among American League rookies (minimum 110 plate appearances) in OBP, tied for first in three-hit games (five), second in OPS, batting average and slugging, third in multi-hit games (14), fifth in hits (42), tied for sixth in RBIs and eighth in home runs. Mountcastle also led the Orioles in percentage of hard-hit (95 mph plus) balls at 42.7.
And as Hyde said, Mountcastle’s strike zone judgement was solid. His 7.9 walk-rate in the majors was better any in his pro career. And his 21.4 strikeout rate was an improvement from 23.5 the year before at Triple-A Norfolk.
“I thought I did a pretty good job of just playing my game,” Mountcastle said during a Zoom conference call with reporters. “Did a lot of work at the alternate site to get ready for that. And you know, I felt like hitting and defensively, I made some strides. Something to build on for this year.
“Over there (Bowie alternate site) they did a lot of good things. Taught me a couple of things, too. Just getting some extra reps in the outfield being new there sort of last year. I think that helped me out a lot for the transition up to the big leagues.”
He said his favorite moment came on Aug. 30 times two, versus Toronto’s Tanner Roark.
“I think getting the first home run out of the way. Everybody loves hitting home runs. And getting that first one was definitely a surreal feeling. And then I guess getting the second one the same day was pretty cool,” said Mountcastle, who hit all of his homers versus right-handed pitching.
Mountcastle’s athleticism may have surprised some observers and his speed was better than the scouting report suggested. Per Statcast, he rated in the top 22 percent in the game in sprint speed.
“I work on it in the offseason all the time. I guess it’s just the first time people actually got to see me on TV,” he said. “Just playing hard. I thought I’ve always been pretty fast. I guess a little underrated part of my game, I don’t know.”
Now, as he gets ready for his second major league season, he said he enjoys being on a team getting younger as the rebuilding continues.
“I mean it’s a lot of young guys - they’re hungry, we’re energetic. I think we have a really good team and I think we’re going to compete in this league. Really excited to see how we do this year,” Mountcastle said.