Nobody needs to trot out the advanced metrics to see that top Orioles power prospect Ryan Mountcastle is almost ready for prime-time, not with the gaudy offensive numbers that he has put up at Triple-A Norfolk this season.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that he was named the International League Most Valuable Player on Monday.
“He’s had a really nice year up until this point,” manager Brandon Hyde said before the Orioles opened a two-game series against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night at Nationals Park. “I’d just like to see him obviously continue to improve.”
Mountcastle, who entered Tuesday batting .308 with 25 home runs, 32 doubles and 80 RBIs in 121 games for the Tides, is the Orioles’ No. 4-rated prospect, but that doesn’t guarantee him a September call-up when the roster limit expands from 25 to 40.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias already has made it pretty clear that there are bigger considerations than just Mountcastle’s great statistical body of work this season.
The 22-year-old first baseman/outfielder is not on the 40-man roster and still has plenty to work on both at the plate and in the field.
“One thing we’ve prioritized is his defense,” Hyde added. “He improved at first base. Now he’s getting some time in left field. All the reports I’m getting is that he’s making a lot of improvements defensively as well. So, along with the offensive numbers, his defensive numbers have improved and that’s important for us as well.”
Mountcastle got some big props from his future big league teammates.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Trey Mancini said. “What is he, 22? I saw him in spring training and that’s pretty much the only time I’ve seen him play, but I’ve seen some video and the dude bashes.
“I’m excited for him to get up there, whenever that is. He’s obviously a tremendous offensive force and to take home MVP honors in your league, especially in Triple-A at that age, it’s not easy to do. It’s extremely impressive and I think fans should be very happy about and excited for him.”
Rookie outfielder DJ Stewart obviously has seen Mountcastle up close, spending much of this past season playing alongside him in Triple-A.
“I’m not surprised [he was named MVP],” Stewart said. “Good player. He’s had a big year and he has shown everybody he can swing the bat at that level and done a great job, so I’m happy for him.”
What has allowed him to take a huge offensive leap and stay consistent for most of the season also is no mystery to Stewart.
“His work in the offseason. He shows every year he knows how to hit. He had a little trouble early, but he adjusted to it quickly and just never wavered. He knows he’s a good hitter and a good player so I think that’s the biggest thing for him, just going out and playing every day.”
Mountcastle leads the Orioles’ minor league system in hits, home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits, prompting Baseball America to name him the Orioles Minor League Player of the Year last week.
Alberto, Nunez make quick returns
Hanser Alberto and Renato Núñez both had to leave Sunday’s game with injuries, but both were back in the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s game.
Alberto got roughed up on a slide into second base and left the game to be evaluated for a concussion. He was re-examined Monday and cleared to play, but Hyde said that he likely would have given Alberto a day off if there had been a game scheduled Monday.
“I feel pretty good,’’ Alberto said. “I felt a little headache and a little [woozy], but after that I felt good.”
Núñez came out in the eighth inning of the Orioles’ 8-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays with hamstring tightness, but Hyde said at the time that he didn’t believe it was a serious issue.
Trumbo begins rehab assignment
Outfielder/designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who has been out all season following knee surgery, was set to begin an injury rehab assignment and be the DH on Tuesday night at Triple-A Norfolk. He is expected to test the knee as a DH and in the field with the Tides and join the major league club next week if all goes well.