Inbox: Will Mountcastle be up in September?

Beat reporter Joe Trezza answers questions from fans

August 26th, 2019

Will September callups be different this season than in the past? Are the Orioles auditioning young guys, resting guys, both or other?
-- Marty Rochlin

In the past, the Orioles have called up their more advanced hitting prospects in September -- think , , -- who would’ve had to be added to the 40-man roster soon anyway, mostly for reward and showcase purposes. There is far less urgency to do so this season, given the ground-floor state of the Orioles’ rebuild and their organizational focus on development above all else.

Does that mean No. 4 prospect Ryan Mountcastle won’t get the call? Not necessarily. But it’s doubtful. Even going past the service and playing time concerns we outlined here recently, the Orioles have little incentive to rush Mountcastle despite his torrid year at Triple-A Norfolk. He’s still just 22, and his bat hasn’t done anything but get better with its first taste of Triple-A. But peek through the cracks and the room for growth -- one of the Minor Leagues’ lowest walk rates, no clear defensive home -- is plain to see.

We might see No. 6 prospect Austin Hays again, unless the Orioles believe he’d benefit more from playing in the Arizona Fall League. But besides Hays and Mountcastle, the organization doesn't have many legitimate position-player prospects at the upper levels.

How about all the pitchers the Orioles have shuttled back and forth from Norfolk this season? Expect them -- Tanner Scott, Branden Kline, Evan Phillips and Co. – back once rosters expand. The Orioles won’t turn down the chance for more bandwidth when it comes to finding fresh arms. The bullpen will be crowded, even if highly rated pitchers like Dean Kremer (No. 8 prospect) aren’t part of it.

Who are the players who need to be added to the 40-man roster to protect from the Rule 5 Draft? Who do you think may be left exposed?
-- Gabriel Garcia

The list is sizable, with Mountcastle, Yusniel Diaz (No. 5 prospect), Kremer, Keegan Akin (No. 11 prospect), Ryan McKenna (No. 13 prospect), Cody Sedlock (No. 17 prospect) and others fitting the bill (fast-rising No. 24 prospect Rylan Bannon does not). There is going to be some serious 40-man churn this winter, especially with some of the older depth options on the pitching side (Baltimore currently has 25 pitchers on the 40-man roster, including injured players).

Things are less flexible among the position players. Of the Orioles’ 16 healthy 40-man hitters, only four -- , , and Hays -- are not currently in the Majors. Smith and Wynns are certain to be back by next week, Hays might be and Mullins was the club’s Opening Day center fielder. That means adding Mountcastle, Diaz, and possibly others will require restructuring of what right now is a roster lopsided on the pitching side.

Mountcastle, Diaz and Kremer are locks to be protected. McKenna’s plateauing numbers at Double-A Bowie and Akin’s regression this year probably make them the two likeliest to be left exposed.

Which player has seen his stock rise the most post-Deadline, and could be a potential offseason trade candidate?
-- AJ McNemar

That’s easy. . While Mancini, Renato Nunez and others have slumped, Villar has surged in the second half. Not only has Villar been one of the most valuable players in all of baseball since the All-Star break, but he probably has a few contenders (the Cubs had interest) regretting they didn’t push harder to acquire him at the Trade Deadline.

Villar was very much available then, and that’ll be true again this winter. Perhaps the Orioles were prudent for waiting. It’s not like Villar’s ability is a secret -- he’s a former stolen-base champ who’s been traded thrice already. But he’s long been viewed as a complementary piece, a player with outsize potential but prone to mistakes. Maybe another month of what he’s doing now goes a ways toward altering that perception.