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Baltimore Orioles

Road to the Show: Ryan Mountcastle gets long-awaited Orioles call-up

Orioles infielder Ryan Mountcastle. Orioles Photo Day at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. February 18, 2020

From now until the last bricks of their rebuild are laid, every promotion of a well-regarded Orioles prospect will be a significant moment for the team and its fans. Every one of those major league debuts will be the culmination of years of work by both the player and those around him to make it happen, and there were plenty of stories to tell along the way.

Ryan Mountcastle’s major league call-up on Friday is no different.

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Here are the best of them about Mountcastle in the Baltimore Sun over the years, from the time he entered the organization as a first-round pick in 2015 right through the moment he broke through.

A look at the Orioles’ first three picks in 2015 draft --June 8, 2015

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Mountcastle was taken with the supplemental first round pick that came when the Orioles lost slugger Nelson Cruz to free agency. He was selected as the Orioles’ second pick after Florida State star DJ Stewart, and it turns out Mountcastle’s high school coach Jered Goodwin knew Stewart as well so he set up a call between the two that night. This draft was meant to be a far more productive one than the 2014 draft, where the Orioles didn’t pick until the third round.

Orioles prospect Ryan Mountcastle wrapping successful first full season in Delmarva -- Aug. 15, 2016

Mountcastle was young for Low-A Delmarva and struggled badly in his first month there, but more than stabilized as the season went on. He ended the year batting .281 with a .745 OPS and 42 extra-base hits, and he grew into some power as the season went on.

He said: “I’ve learned that I can do this, and I’ve learned that I’m supposed to be here, and there’s time where I’m just doubting myself and I’ve got to stay level-headed and have that confidence that I can really do this and be good at it.”

Orioles working with Ryan Mountcastle to keep him at shortstop long term – Jan. 10, 2017

By the Orioles’ minicamp the next winter, most of the discourse around Mountcastle wasn’t about his bat but his glove. He struggled as a shortstop, and was on a specific program to improve his throwing that offseason.

Mountcastle never enjoyed the attention the subject got, but said: “I’d like to improve on all aspects of the game. With fielding, I want to be more confident and just really get better with fielding, and hitting will come, too. … I feel good out there. I got a lot of positives out of [last year]. I know what I need to work on and I just can’t wait for this coming year.”

Orioles prospect Ryan Mountcastle’s move to third base met with positive mindset at Bowie – July 27, 2017

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Mountcastle did some work on his swing ahead of the 2017 season and it paid off. At the time of his promotion from High-A Frederick, he was batting .281. with an .885 OPS, and his 51 extra-base hits were the most in all the minors.

His call-up to Double-A Bowie in late July came with a surprise move from shortstop to third base.

“Trying to learn a new position is always going to take a little bit of time, but from short to third, it’s nothing too crazy,” Mountcastle said. “But the promotion and everything, it was a little bit of a crazy day, but once you get out here, it’s just baseball. You just play hard.”

One for the future: Evaluating Orioles prospect Ryan Mountcastle – July 10, 2018

After he broke a bone in his hand getting hit by a pitch in spring training, Mountcastle was back at Bowie and no longer overwhelmed by the positional switch and the higher competition he met the previous summer. He was settling into a place that would define the next couple of years: a productive bat with questions about where he would play.

Orioles prospects Alex Wells, Ryan Mountcastle soak in ‘big league atmosphere’ in All-Star Futures Game – July 15, 2018

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Mountcastle didn’t have to travel far from Bowie to play in the MLB All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park that summer, and felt at home in a big league clubhouse surrounded by the game’s top prospects.

He said: “That’s probably as close as you can get to a big league game, big league atmosphere. I had a great time. … It means a lot just to be with some of these guys, and to be thought of highly like this. It’s such an honor.”

Orioles prospect Ryan Mountcastle works out at first base, his third position in three years – Feb. 18, 2019

Mountcastle was invited to major league spring training for a second consecutive year in 2019 to get to know manager Brandon Hyde and the new Orioles’ staff. Their gift: another position change, this time to first base.

The Orioles’ new brass saw more of a future with him there than third base, and started working with him at that spot immediately.

“You always want to be comfortable out there, and whether they put me at first or third, I’m going to train my hardest to feel comfortable wherever I’m at,” Mountcastle said.

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Orioles Minor League Player of the Year Ryan Mountcastle ‘ready when the opportunity comes’ – Sept. 21, 2019

Mountcastle was good enough to be the Most Valuable Player of the International League at Triple-A Norfolk while batting .312 with an .871 OPS and 25 home runs, and was named the Orioles’ Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year. But instead of being a September call-up to prepare him for a more extended time in Baltimore this year, Mountcastle only got paraded around on minor league awards day at Camden Yards.

“Going into the year, I thought I had a good shot at making the team at some point,” Mountcastle said. “It didn’t happen, but I’m moving on to next year and I’m ready to go next year if the opportunity presents itself. … I feel like I could help this team win some ballgames whenever they need me up here. I’m going to be ready when the opportunity comes.”

The Orioles will decide when Ryan Mountcastle is a big leaguer. Here’s how he made sure he’d become one. – Feb. 27, 2020

That ceremonial invitation to Camden Yards in lieu of a major league debut motivated Mountcastle more than ever to continue the work on his swing at a private facility, his body with a modern strength trainer, and his defense with his old coach every day at his high school field.

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“If you’re going to play a high-level sport like that, you have to be very strong where you’re weak,” said Ben DeLaCruz, Mountcastle’s trainer. “He just attacked what he was weak at, and that made what he was already good at better.”

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If Yasiel Puig was a possible Orioles outfield solution, why aren’t they considering Ryan Mountcastle? – July 14, 2020

Mountcastle’s debut was never going to happen earlier than now for a variety of reasons as the team urged him to work on his outfield defense and plate discipline at the Bowie camp while waiting until a time to call him up that was beneficial to keeping him an extra year before free agency.

Still, when the team was considering signing Yasiel Puig to a free agent contract during summer camp, it begged the question of why they wouldn’t just open the season with Mountcastle in their outfield.

How the Orioles are preparing Ryan Mountcastle for the big leagues at Bowie camp: ‘We’re not trying to fence in a wild horse’ – Aug. 7, 2020

Even as the data passed when the Orioles could promote Mountcastle without missing out on a potential extra year of control, the club kept him in Bowie, working on his defense and plate discipline as he flashed the offensive potential that could make him a part of the Orioles’ lineup for years to come.

“We’re not trying to fence in a wild horse,” minor-league hitting coach Anthony Villa said. “We want Ryan to continue to be aggressive. His No. 1 carrying tool is his damage ability, and we certainly don’t want to hinder that.”


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