BOWIE—In the community of Orioles fans who follow the minor leagues, Mason McCoy has emerged as something of a cult figure. McCoy, a 24-year-old shortstop who was the Orioles’ sixth-round draft choice in 2017, has had a terrific and, to some, a surprising rise this season.
A year ago, McCoy batted .266 with four home runs and 47 RBIs for Low-A Delmarva. He stole 13 bases in 15 attempts.
This year, McCoy was regularly summoned to spring training games as an extra infielder but rarely played.
Once the spring ended, McCoy went to High-A Frederick and hit .379 in 27 games.
He earned a quick promotion to Double-A Bowie, where he’s played some second base as well as shortstop and hit .302 with two home runs and 20 RBIs.
McCoy’s success in 2019 isn’t a surprise to him.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily it was a bad season,” McCoy said of his time with the Shorebirds. “My first two months were really bad. We were trying to make a lot of adjustments with hitting.”
Last year, from July 1 on, McCoy hit .296. He said mechanical adjustments made the difference.
“Going into that season, it was the first offseason where I didn’t know what to do,” McCoy said. “I tried to guess when to start things. I felt really behind when it came to hitting, so this season I started a little bit sooner … immediately when I showed up at spring training, I noticed a huge difference.”
McCoy, who went to the University of Iowa, bears some resemblance to longtime Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, and he’s got a fan in Baysox manager Buck Britton, who also managed him at Delmarva last year.
“He’s committed to the player that he is,” Britton said.
McCoy is a bit of a throwback. He has just nine home runs in three professional seasons.
“He’s not afraid to continue to hit line drives into right field and get on base and set the table for the other guys,” Britton said. “In the days of the shift, he’s not afraid to hit behind the shift and take his base hit to right field.”
In this new baseball age, contact hitters don’t seem to be highly valued, but Britton discussed McCoy with his brother, Zack, the longtime Orioles reliever who’s now with the New York Yankees.
“I think there’s a place in the game for a guy like that,” Britton said. “I talk to my brother all the time, and I talk about what McCoy has gotten to do. Zack talks about DJ LeMahieu, and that’s how DJ LeMahieu hits.”
Even though McCoy had few opportunities to perform in Orioles Grapefruit League games, he still profited from the experience.
“Everyone’s relaxed, and they just know what their job is, and they know where they’re supposed to be all the time,” McCoy said.
It helped prepare him for the Keys and now the Baysox, and perhaps more.
“You never really know,” McCoy said. “You hope for it, and I think that I was capable of playing at this level. I don’t really worry about what the moves are. I focus on, every day, try to come out and get a win, try to play baseball well, and it will take care of itself.
“I played well enough that they thought they’d give me a chance to come up here and try and prove myself. Up to this point, I think I’ve done a decent job doing that.”
With Bowie so close to Baltimore, it’s natural for McCoy to believe he has a chance to play for the Orioles. To McCoy, Delmarva and Frederick felt far away from the major leagues. With the Baysox, not so much.
“Once you’re here, you see that we have guys that have big league experience, a lot of them,” McCoy said. “You get a lot of bounceback guys. That’s something that excites you when you’re talking to them about how the big leagues are, and you realize, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re almost there.’ We’re kind of close. That definitely gets you excited and ready to come out to play.”