ABERDEEN - For a player who was not even drafted last year, first baseman JD Mundy is having some first season of professional baseball.
After a college career that took him to Virginia Tech for two years and then to Radford for two more, the Roanoke, Va., native leads the Orioles organization on the farm in homers, slugging and OPS. The player taken 1/1 in the 2019 draft, Double-A Bowie catcher Adley Rutschman, is second to Mundy in homers and OPS this season.
So, yeah, pretty good for the player that transferred to Radford when he realized the new coach at Virginia Tech didn’t expect to have much of a role for him.
With a draft of just five rounds last year, teams could sign players after the draft, but for just $20,000 as a bonus. That was not great for the players and basically meant the players could choose their teams as much as the other way around. Mundy said three teams, essentially, tried to recruit him: the Yankees, Mariners and Orioles.
With a pandemic raging last summer, all these teams’ sales pitches to the players would take place on a laptop.
“I just ultimately ended up choosing the Orioles,” Mundy told me last week at Ripken Stadium. “Felt like it was the best fit for me. I talked to all the hitting coaches at each level and just talked to the staff in general and just felt this was the best decision for my career.
“They showed me what the organization had to offer and stuff we would work on in practice and spring training. And stuff I would do during the season. That really sold me on the Orioles. I could have gone back and played one more year at Radford. I thought about it, but I just thought this was the best decision for me. I felt like I was ready to take the next step and really glad I made that decision. I was ready to move on.”
And it sure has worked out for Mundy, who got off a hot stretch of hitting at Delmarva and has carried it over with Aberdeen after moving up. In 19 games with the IronBirds, he’s batting .274 with eight homers, 19 RBIs and a 1.107 OPS.
“No regrets at all,” he said of his choices to leave school and to join the Orioles.
He’s a player with a good batting eye who ranks eighth on the O’s farm in walk rate at 14.7 percent.
“I just feel like what clicked for me, I just love playing every day,” Mundy said. “In college, you only play weekend games and some midweek games. It helps me to just play every single day and get in a groove. Once I get hot, you always have a game tomorrow to keep it rolling.
“I feel like it’s more of an approach thing for me. I feel like I’ve always had the same swing, so it’s nothing really mechanical. Just trying to figure out what the pitcher is trying to do to get me out. ‘What are my strengths and weaknesses?’ And come up there with a plan on the situation and figure out how I will be pitched.”
The homers have come, he said, as a result of putting good swings on the ball and having the strength to hit it out.
“I would say both (are important in hitting longballs). You definitely have to put a good hard swing on it,” he said. “But I would say definitely just getting my pitch and not missing it. You sometimes only get one good pitch per at-bat, so make sure when you get it, (you) don’t miss it.”
Mundy said he has loved working with hitting coaches Patrick Jones at Delmarva and Tom Eller in Aberdeen. He loves the O’s approach with their minor league hitters.
“It’s very individualized,” Mundy said. “Every guy hits differently and I just feel like the coaches do a really good job of working one-on-one with you. You can go get extra work whenever you need it. You can kind of have a say in what you want to work on and what you feel like as a player.
As the O’s four full-season affiliates were off on their scheduled day of rest yesterday, Mundy took Monday off. Now he looks to keep raking tonight when the IronBirds host Brooklyn at Ripken Stadium.
“It’s been awesome here. Just very thankful that I’ve had the chance to come play for this team,” Mundy said. “Been very happy with my success and it just goes back to all the hard work over the years. Always going to cages and taking ground balls. Always have been working to get better.”
O’s win in Houston: O’s pitchers allowed 10 walks and let one lead get away. They almost let a five-run lead in the ninth get away. But they did not. They beat Houston 9-7 to take the series opener and improve to 25-54.
Last week the O’s scored three runs and were swept in three games against this team. Last night - and the game ended after midnight today - they scored five in the ninth to win it.
At four hours, 19 minutes, it was the fourth-longest nine-inning game in O’s history.
Here is another cool fact from the win: The first five batters in the lineup were homegrown Orioles, and they combined to have quite the game. Cedric Mullins batted first, followed by Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan McKenna - all O’s draft picks. They combined to go 11-for-23 with two walks, two homers, eight runs and six RBIs.
Both homers were go-ahead home runs. Mountcastle hit No. 14 in the fifth off Zack Greinke to give the O’s a 3-2 lead. Hays hit No. 7 in the ninth off Brandon Bielak, and his two-run shot broke a 4-4 tie.
The Orioles were just 1-22 in their last 23 road games. Houston was 11-1 in its previous 12 home games.
But the Orioles got the win in the series opener, and the three-game set continues tonight at Minute Maid Park in Houston.