BALTIMORE—It’s been quite a year for Ryan Mountcastle. In his first season at Triple-A, Mountcastle was named the International League’s Most Valuable Player, and this week was named the Orioles’ top player of the year.
Mountcastle, who won the award named after Brooks Robinson, accepted the honor on the field before Saturday’s game against the Seattle Mariners.
The 22-year-old hit .312 for Norfolk with an OPS of .871. Mountcastle hit 25 home runs and had 83 RBIs.
“I feel like I put a lot of work into the offseason before,” Mountcastle said. “The way the year went, I feel proud of myself and excited to see what this next year brings.”
Mountcastle, who moved from third base to first base, played 26 games in left field toward the end of the season with the Tides.
“I started feeling pretty comfortable towards the end,” Mountcastle said. “I feel like I did well out there.”
Many Orioles fans thought Mountcastle would be called up when the rosters expanded on September 1, but general manager Mike Elias said that he wanted to see him work on his plate discipline and defense before advancing to the Orioles. Elias hinted that Mountcastle will start 2020 in the minors as well.
“Going into the year, 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 when the opportunity presents itself.”
As the best position prospect in the higher minors, Mountcastle is eager to join the team.
“I feel like I can help this team win some ballgames whenever they need me up here,” Mountcastle said. “I’m going to be ready when the opportunity comes.”
Pitching awards: Mike Baumann, who split the season between High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie, and Grayson Rodriguez, who was named the South Atlantic League’s top pitching prospect, shared the organization’s top minor league pitching award, named for Jim Palmer.
Baumann, who threw a no-hitter for Bowie, was 7-6 with a 2.98 ERA with the Keys and Baysox. Rodriguez was 10-4 with a 2.68 ERA for the Shorebirds, who set a franchise record with 90 wins.
Delmarva lost in the league semifinals to Hickory, but Rodriguez enjoyed the experience.
“Making it to the playoffs is something big,” Rodriguez said. “We were very happy we made it to the playoffs. It wasn’t the end result we wanted, but it definitely was a successful year.”
Rodriguez got to pitch to the overall No. 1 draft choice at the end of the season, catcher Adley Rutschman, and he was thrilled with the opportunity.
“It was fantastic seeing back him there behind the plate,” Rodriguez said. “Seeing what the hype was about, it definitely was there.”
Baumann got to pitch with Bowie in the Eastern League Championship Series, where they lost a best-of-five series, 3-1, to Trenton.
“It was a blast going into that situation,” Baumann said. “That rotation and the bullpen were all pitching well. I’m a firm believer that winning is contagious, and they set the bar high. I think we were all going there, trying to ride the momentum the next night.”
Elias sees improvement: Orioles general manager Mike Elias presented the organizational minor league awards to the winners, and said he sees progress.
“I think by all accounts we had a terrific year in the farm system, in the minor leagues,” Elias said. “Maybe even beyond what I might have hoped for. The energy level throughout the year was palpable.”
The Orioles’ minor leagues were ranked among the worst systems before Elias’ arrival last November. After June’s draft, the Orioles’ system is rated in the top half in most surveys.
“The rankings aren’t everything,” Elias said. “It’s nice to see when every major ranking goes up. It’s a good sign.”
Elias believes the farm system is near where it should be.
“I think pretty close,” Elias said. “I think the fact that we got our pitching program off the ground this year, and saw the results that we saw right away puts us ahead of schedule, frankly, where we I thought we might be coming into this place in a new organization.
“… In terms of the talent level, I think we’re in a better spot than we were a year ago, and we just want that to continue to be the case.”