SS Ryan Mountcastle Having Impressive Start to 2017 Season with Frederick Keys

By Contributing Writer: Nick Stevens 

He may be just 20-years old, but Ryan Mountcastle is one of the top hitters in the High-A Carolina League. Mountcastle was a 1st round pick of the Orioles in the 2015 MLB draft (DJ Stewart, AA Bowie, was the other 1st round pick that year) and has quickly risen through the Orioles’ farm system. The starting shortstop for the Frederick Keys currently sits in the Top 10 of  9 different categories in the Carolina League, including leading the league in hits and total bases.

Photo: Patrick Cavey

 Mountcastle turned 20 just 2 months before the 2017 season, but being a young hitter has yet to prove to be an issue as he moves up the organizational ladder. Averaging a home run every 18.8 at-bats, Mountcastle is currently hitting .327 with 6 home runs and 21 RBIs. Ryan started the season with a 10-game hitting streak (.357 average during that streak) and has since had a  7 game hitting streak. In 29 games so far, he has been held hitless in only  6 of them.
 With the season  only a month old, Ryan’s strikeout rate has dropped from 1 strikeout every 20 at-bats in 2016 (Low-A Delmarva) to  1 strikeout every 14 at-bats. While he’s not a guy who will draw a lot of walks (only six so far this season), Mountcastle is seeing the ball very well. In an interview with MASN Sports’ Steve Melewski on Thursday, Orioles’ Director of Player Development, Brian Graham, said about Mountcastle, “He’s a guy with a good understanding of how to hit - everything from his approach to hitting, to swing mechanics, pitch selection, to driving the ball.”
Due to concerns about his defense, some scouts within the organization believe that Mountcastle could end up in the outfield for the Orioles. Last year in Delmarva, Mountcastle committed 21 errors for a .949 fielding percentage. For the Keys, he has already committed 4  errors and holds a .944 fielding percentage. His range factor has also dropped from 3.71 to 2.83. Keep in mind, Mountcastle has yet to reach 21 years of age.
 Let’s be honest for a moment, though. One of my favorite moments about being at Camden Yards is the long, exaggerated “J….J….HARDY” as JJ comes up to the plate. The 3x Gold-Glove award winner remains a critical part of the Orioles’ defense, but his offense has steadily declined over the years. It’s time Baltimore starts looking for a new partner for Jonathan Schoop. Look no further than Ryan Mountcastle.
 Make sure you make your way to Frederick to see Mountcastle in person this season. He’s worth the price of admission.

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