Ryan Mountcastle is chasing the team rookie home run record. The Baltimore Orioles‘ power hitter has come out of nowhere and is closing in on the franchise home run record for a rookie. As of this article, the new fan-favorite has 25 home runs with 28 games to play. If Mountcastle continues hitting home runs at his current rate, he will certainly shatter the record of 28, held by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr.
Signed out of High School
Mountcastle was drafted and signed by the Orioles out of high school in the first round of the 2015 MLB draft. His power hitting abilities made him move quickly through the Orioles’ minor league system. Drafted as a shortstop, the concern with him was his defense. He made 21 errors in 105 games. He was moved to third base in 2017 to see if the change would help.
Home Run Power
His home run power has been on display as he hit 70 home runs in five minor league seasons. We all know that players who can hit, especially for power, tend to make their way to the big leagues. After the move to third base, his fielding remained questionable, however. That led to the Orioles working him at first base and left field during spring training in 2019. They figured with all of his power and size, his future in the big leagues would need to be at first base with some possible outfield play.
Alternate Camp for 2020
One of the teams top ten prospects since 2016 and a Triple-A International League MVP in 2019, Mountcastle was certain to get a lot of 2020 Spring Training action, both at first base and left field with an opportunity to make the team. Then COVID-19 shut everything down.
He was assigned to the alternate camp where he continued to workout and take part in team scrimmages. This allowed the organization to see him on a regular basis and work with him on improving his chances of succeeding.
August 2020 Call Up
Mountcastle was called up to the major leagues on August 21, 2020. He would see action the next day and got his first his hit. He finished the season playing in 35 games with a .333 batting average, five home runs, and a slugging average of .492 while seeing playing time at first base, in left field, and at DH.
After a good 2021 spring training, Mountcastle made the team and was going to see action in left field, and first base as well at DH. However, he suffered some early challenges to start the year, hitting just .198 with one homer, seven RBIs, and 30 strikeouts in the month of April. There was even discussion of sending him to Triple-A to work on his struggles. He ended up working with Orioles’ hitting coaches Don Long and Jose Hernandez and they made some changes to his swing.
Since May 1st, he is hitting .288 with 16 doubles, 24 homers, and 66 RBIs. He has been driving the ball to all fields and has started to tap into his raw power more consistently. Named AL Player of the Week for the first week of June, he has shown off his power since. He also has been the Orioles’ best hitter since the All-Star Break and had a great August with an .884 slugging percentage.
Rookie of the Year Watch
While Ryan Mountcastle is chasing the team rookie home run record, that pursuit has also made him a candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. All the attention earlier in the season had been on outfielders Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, and Anthony Santander along with pitchers Keegan Akin and John Means. However, Mountcastle snuck in under the radar and will certainly get some rookie of the year consideration.
Rookie Home Run Record Chase
While Mountcastle is chasing the team’s rookie home run record, the 2021 season has been disappointing for the Orioles and their fans. Their inconsistent pitching and hitting to go along with a 19-game losing streak has made for a dreadful year. However, with Mountcastle going after the rookie home run record, it hopefully gives the fans something to be excited about the last month of the season and that the teams future looks up-beat for 2022.
Embed from Getty Images