In 2019, a fresh-faced first baseman took the National League by storm, smashing home runs at a record pace and ultimately cakewalking to Rookie of the Year. The baseball world sat up and noticed as the Mets' Pete Alonso obliterated the rookie home run record and led the majors with
In 2019, a fresh-faced first baseman took the National League by storm, smashing home runs at a record pace and ultimately cakewalking to Rookie of the Year. The baseball world sat up and noticed as the Mets' Pete Alonso obliterated the rookie home run record and led the majors with 53 round-trippers. While Alonso made headlines in the Senior Circuit, the Orioles hope that their own soon-to-be major-league first baseman will do the same in the Junior Circuit in 2020.
Baltimore is right to have high hopes for Ryan Mountcastle, who has come into his own three years after a summer with the Delmarva Shorebirds. The former first-round pick truly tapped into his power with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, slashing .312/.344/.527 with a career-best 25 home runs and 83 RBIs. Mountcastle added 35 doubles and scored 81 runs while leading the International League with 162 hits. After an illustrious season in a Triple-A League not known for top offense, it came as no surprise that Mountcastle was named IL Most Valuable Player, becoming the first Tide to win it in the Orioles era and the franchise's first since Roberto Petagine in 1997.
Birdland faithful who followed Mountcastle from the beginning knew he would eventually blossom into such a power threat. Drafted 36th overall out of Paul J. Hagerty High School in Florida, he spent his rookie summer of 2015 between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen, earning a spot on the Shorebirds' Opening Day roster in 2016. The 19-year-old made an instant impact, slugging a two-run homer in the top of the ninth to help Delmarva shut out intrastate rivals Hagerstown 4-0 in the season opener on April 7.
It would be some time before Mountcastle would leave the yard again, though. He went the rest of April without a home run, then the whole month of May. The winds finally shifted Mountcastle's way on June 6 in West Virginia, where he drilled a solo shot early in the Shorebirds' 13-inning win over the Power. With newfound confidence, Mountcastle locked in and belted three more homers before the All-Star Break, including two at the pitchers' paradise that is Perdue Stadium.
While his averaged dipped in the second half, Mountcastle still managed impressive numbers for a teenager in the South Atlantic League, hitting .281 with 28 doubles, four triples, 10 homers, 51 RBIs, and 53 runs scored while playing in 115 games for the Shorebirds, who missed a playoff berth by half a game in that year's first half standings.
After his summer in Salisbury, Mountcastle kept the ball rolling as he climbed the Oriole ladder. He went on a tear at the start of the 2017 campaign in High-A Frederick, hitting .318 with 13 extra-base hits over his first 28 games and earning a mid-season promotion to Double-A Bowie. He finished the full year with 18 homers and an .802 OPS over the two levels and earned an invite to the Arizona Fall League, where he played for the Salt River Rafters.
A repeat 2018 season with Bowie gave Mountcastle the finishing touches he needed to burst onto the Triple-A scene this year. While it took him 12 games to hit a home run, his first opened up a spurt of four longballs in five days. He belted a walk-off homer to beat Louisville on June 1 and followed it up the next day with three dingers in an onslaught of the Bats. After one of the more stellar campaigns by an Oriole farmhand in recent memory, Mountcastle was the organization's runaway pick for Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year.
Like another former Shorebird in Ryan McKenna , Mountcastle joined the Orioles' 40-man roster in recent weeks. While it remains to be seen if he'll get an Alonso-esque ticket to the majors in time for Opening Day, Mountcastle is as good a candidate as any to catch that rookie lightning in a bottle all over again.