Inbox: Where does Ryan Mountcastle play?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers questions from Orioles fans

February 19th, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Good day from beautiful Ed Smith Stadium, where the Orioles are nearly through two weeks of spring workouts. All 67 expected players are here in Orioles camp, the sun is shining and Grapefruit League games are about to begin.

Let’s crack open the ‘ol inbox for the first time this spring.

The short answer is: All over. The Orioles have been zigzagging all around the field since full-squad workouts began, giving the now-23-year-old (his birthday was Tuesday) reps in the outfield and both corner infield spots. Mountcastle was grouped with the outfielders during regular workout hours Monday and Tuesday, then received individualized first base work afterwards. On Wednesday, he was part of the infield alignment, playing mostly first base with out sick.

Once games start, expect Mountcastle to see time in both right field, left field, third base and first. Manager Brandon Hyde said Tuesday the club has not discussed working Mountcastle out at second base, though EVP/GM Mike Elias floated the possibility at a fan event this winter.

“I just want him to be comfortable,” Hyde said this week. “We love his offensive potential and now it’s about finding him a comfortable place to play defensively … so we’re just moving him around.”

That’s hard to handicap at this point, but I think – and hear me out – they’re both in the bullpen. The unit as a whole has a chance to be leaps and bounds better this year, with taking some of the burden off , and fully healthy again. Throw in breakouts from and , and Baltimore’s relief corps could be significantly improved in 2020.

Why Castro and Scott? Castro was really good for long stretches last year when he quietly took several steps forward. Castro bumped his strikeout rate, cut his walk rate and saw his average sinker velocity jump from 95.4 to 97.3 mph, still stands 6-foot-7 and is entering his age-25 season. That screams breakout. Various projections pegged Scott to improve this season, and the Orioles still love the hellacious high-90s fastball/slider arsenal he brings. The question remains whether he can learn to command it.

Sometime in 2020, the Orioles hope. That became clear when the Orioles added Kremer to the 40-man roster last November. He’s going to get a long look in camp, but not as a legit rotation candidate just yet. Kremer is first ticketed for Triple-A Norfolk, where he made just four starts after earning a late-season promotion last year. A strong start could have him in Baltimore before long, though.

It’s possible, but probably only if Keegan Akin cracks the Opening Day rotation. I’m not sure that happens with all the rotation candidates in camp, several Rule 5 Draft picks to consider, where the Orioles are on the competitive cycle and how many other pitchers they’ll need to find starts for at Triple-A. Let’s assume Akin begins the year at Triple-A. That would put him, Kremer, Zac Lowther, Alex Wells and Bruce Zimmerman all in Norfolk’s rotation, with Akin, Kremer and Zimmerman the most likely to appear in Baltimore at some point this summer.

That should give the O’s the ability to initially send Baumann back to Double-A Bowie, where he spent only a half season in 2019. But he could potentially earn a promotion to Norfolk by mid-season.

They are hoping he plays like one. Davis was relegated to a bench role toward the end of last season, and it’s possible Ryan Mountcastle pushes him back into one with a sizzling spring. There will be another roster crunch when Mountcastle and join , , and possibly on the big league roster. But until that happens, Davis looks like the Orioles’ Opening Day first baseman at the very least.

If I knew that now, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Would it?