Westburg’s slow start at Bowie and Mountcastle’s home run chase

BOWIE - For a player that has had one of the most productive bats on the Orioles farm this year, it is strange to see infielder Jordan Westburg with a .143 batting average right now at Double-A Bowie.

But his bat has yet to take off with the Baysox. However, for this player in his first full pro season, there is no concern right now and both his manager and hitting coaches expect the hits to start coming and sooner rather than later.

“He’s taking some lumps, which I think is good for him,” Bowie manager Buck Britton told me Friday at Prince George’s Stadium.

Westburg began the year with 20 games at low Single-A Delmarva and produced an OPS of 1.075. He moved up to high Single-A Aberdeen and had an OPS of .865 in 61 games. But he is 6-for-42 without a multi-hit performance in 11 games with Bowie, with a double and no RBIs. He went 1-for-4 with a single in a win Sunday over Erie.

“He’s had a lot of success this year. No one here is panicking,” said Britton. “He’s been here for 10 days or so. I think he is figuring out that guys command the ball a little bit better up here, especially the fastball. For me, and I’ve only seen him for a short time and maybe it’s not fair to label a guy, but I see him as kind of a throwback. He really handles the ball away and hits the ball to right-center.

“So now he’s being challenged with those fastballs in and he’s having to make an adjustment. He does a really good job of commanding the strike zone. He’s still buying into the system and it’s something he’s going to learn. But busting him inside is forcing him to make adjustments and that’s great. Every minor leaguer should struggle before they get to the big leagues - it’s good for him.”

Thumbnail image for Westburg-Hits-Aberdeen-Sidebar.jpgFor the season, playing the with three teams and over 92 games, the 22-year-old Westburg has hit .287/.397/.460/.857 with 22 doubles, three triples, 11 homers and 65 RBIs.

Britton said he has seen no signs of anxiousness at all from Westburg, who is getting everyday reps as Bowie’s shortstop and will make one start a week at third base as well.

“He’s the same kid, night in and night out,” said Britton. “He’s a guy who, when he plays defense, you wouldn’t know if he’s 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. He’s a super athletic kid. He plays a little taller in the infield, there are a lot of infielders that play the way he does. Corey Seager plays tall. There are bigger guys and it’s harder for them to get down in there like shorter players. But the arm plays there and I’m excited to get a longer look at him. Solid kid, smart kid who understands the big picture. I’m not worried about him one bit.”

Westburg, who has become close friends with Gunnar Henderson, who is with Aberdeen, ranks second among O’s full-season players in batting average and hits, third in doubles and RBIs, and fifth in OPS.

How does Bowie hitting coach Ryan Fuller size Westburg up?

“Grinder,” Fuller said of the 2020 No. 30 overall draft pick from Mississippi State. “The first week, it’s been a challenge for him, and in Double-A, when they find what’s not working, they will keep going to that. Just needs to keep doing what he has done at Delmarva and Aberdeen and certainly going three levels in one season is very challenging.”

Fuller said he sees the hits coming soon for Westburg.

“No doubt about it,” Fuller said. “He’s come up here and gotten punched in the gut a little bit and he realizes he needs to get his movements started a little earlier, needs to make contact a little more out in front. He came to me and said, ‘Let’s work on this.’ We looked at video comparing (fall) instructs to what he is doing right now and he has a really clear idea of what he needs to do in training and in the game. Next week is a big challenge. We’ll see Somerset and we are going to see triple digits at times.”

Bowie will go into that big series leading Somerset by a half-game for the second and final playoff spot in the Double-A Northeast. The Baysox are 59-41 while Somerset is 59-42.

Rookie homer record could fall: When Ryan Mountcastle hit his 24th home run in the last of the third Sunday, he moved into a tie for third place on the O’s single-season rookie home run list.

28 - Cal Ripken Jr. in 1982
27 - Eddie Murray in 1977
24 - Trey Mancini in 2017 and Mountcastle in 2021

The math says Mountcastle has a solid chance to pass Mancini, Murray and Ripken and be No. 1 on this list by the end of this year.

Mountcastle has 452 plate appearances in 129 team games, so 3.5 per every O’s game. And he averages a homer every 18.83 plate appearances. There are 33 games left. Even if he missed, say, four games and played 29, that is about 101 plate appearances remaining for him, and at his current pace, he would hit at least five home runs to give him 29.

He’ll probably even get more plate appearances than that, but the math works for the kid to pass a couple of Hall of Famers to get to the top of this list.

That would be something special to watch and something special for Mountcastle.

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