IL notes: Mountcastle looking for a home

Orioles No. 2 prospect raking while playing first base, left field

Ryan Mountcastle is 10-for-25 (.400) with a homer and seven RBIs during a six-game hitting streak. (Chris Robertson/MiLB.com)

By Bob Sutton / Special to MiLB.com | July 22, 2019 10:35 AM

Settling on a position for Ryan Mountcastle might be the only issue that hasn't been solved.

In his first Triple-A campaign, the Orioles' No. 2 prospect has demonstrated a consistent hitting stroke for the Norfolk Tides. And while this also has been Mountcastle's first season as a first baseman, he has dabbled in the outfield.

"Definitely, he has played more at first base this year," Tides manager Gary Kendall said. "It's hard to learn a new position when you get to Triple-A."

Actually, Mountcastle is learning two of them.

He was drafted as a shortstop, shifted to third base and then to first. He's been used in left field a few times this year so the organization also can take a look at him there. Which position he plays isn't an issue on which Mountcastle puts much emphasis.

"I don't really care," he said. "Whatever they need in the big leagues, wherever they need me."

Mountcastle might be in this experimental stage because he's 22 years old. He was the second-youngest member of the International League team earlier this month at the Triple-A All-Star Game.

"He has just been consistent," Kendall said. "When you get to the halfway point of the season and are 22, that's what you like to see. He hits in the middle of the lineup and has handled that. For this league, I don't know how many guys are 22."

For Mountcastle, his youth doesn't necessarily translate to less experience. He was a first-round Draft pick in 2015.

"I've been playing with older guys since I was drafted," he said.

The Florida native has been hitting over .300 for most of the season, accompanied by solid power numbers. Eight of his 17 homers came in June, boosted by a three-homer day against Louisville.

Video: Tides' Mountcastle smacks third homer of game

"I feel like I've been holding my own," Mountcastle said. "I've done my part, but there's a lot of season left."

Pitchers have altered their approaches, so Kendall has been interested in seeing the response.

"They try to change things on him," the manager said. "They're not going to make it easy for him."

Kendall has been with Mountcastle for a few years and notices growth in several areas.

"I've seen his body change and his personality is a little more outgoing," Kendall said, liking the potential leadership qualities.

Mountcastle has added to his 6-foot-3 frame, getting up to 215 pounds, so maybe he's starting to look like a first baseman … or a power-hitting corner outfielder.

"I put on some good weight this offseason," he said. "I feel good right now."

In brief

On the run: Buoyed by a 15-game hitting streak in June, Toledo OF Jacob Robson broke out of a spring slump and has grabbed the league lead with 19 stolen bases. Twelve of those thefts have come since early June. The Mud Hens haven't had a player reach 20 stolen bases since Ezequiel Carrera and Hernan Perez in 2014.

Century watch: Lucas Sims struck out a league-leading102 batters for Louisville prior to last week's callup to Cincinnati. That gave the right-hander at least 100 punchouts in seven straight Minor League seasons. He was on the mound for Gwinnett for parts of the past three seasons before a 2018 Trade Deadline deal from the Atlanta organization.

Meet the team?: The two-time reigning Governors' Cup champion Durham Bulls have had significant roster overhaul due to trades, promotions, injuries and outfielder Jake Smolinski signing to play in Korea. By last weekend, All-Star 2B Kean Wong was the only Bull in the starting lineup who was a holdover from the Opening Night lineup. For the second year in a row, Wong is contending for the league batting title.

Bob Sutton is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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