Orioles' Mountcastle needs a defensive position; Wojciechowski likes rotation; Wilkerson's value is versatility - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Orioles’ Mountcastle needs a defensive position; Wojciechowski likes rotation; Wilkerson’s value is versatility

Photo Credit: Joy R. Absalon

Oriole fans are eager to see Ryan Mountcastle play for the team that drafted him five years ago. Mountcastle is eager to make his major league debut, too.

Mountcastle was drafted as a shortstop, moved to third base in 2017, his third professional season, and last year, at Triple-A Norfolk, played 83 games at first base, 26 in left field and nine at third. He batted .312 and hit 25 home runs.

The Orioles would like to see Mountcastle this summer, and are planning on it. Even though he was named the organization’s top minor league position player last summer and the International League’s Most Valuable Player in 2019, the organization wants him to get more experience in the outfield.

While many fans think that Mountcastle wasn’t added to the major league roster last September to conserve service time, the Orioles believe he needs to master a defensive position to be a useful major leaguer.

For now, Renato Nunez will probably be the regular designated hitter, and manager Brandon Hyde thinks Mountcastle needs to be an all-around player to become an Oriole. Adding him strictly as a designated hitter wouldn’t be in the team’s best interest.

“I’d rather not promote somebody as a DH, ever,” Hyde said in a video conference on Thursday.

“But I do feel like we’re putting a plan together to get as many left field reps as possible with first base being kind of a secondary position at this time. We want him to work in left field, making it as comfortable as we possibly can, really from spring training until now, going forward, to really get him to continue the work on a dally basis in left field.”

Even though the alternate site at Bowie is running with 13 players with the addition of outfielder Yusniel Diaz, left-handed pitcher DL Hall and infielder Ramon Urias, Mountcastle remains with the Orioles.

They’ve said repeatedly that he wouldn’t begin the season with the team but would join them later in the summer.

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Wojciechowski watches: During early intrasquad games last week, right-hander Asher Wojciechowski sat in the stands, a few rows behind executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.

Pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach Darren Holmes also sit in the stands, as do some top team staffers.

Wojciechowski found the vantage point helpful.

“I was watching just to watch baseball,” Wojciechowski said. .

“I hadn’t seen baseball in a long time. I wanted to watch my teammates. I wanted to watch how guys were throwing, wanted to see how everyone was doing out there. Just wanted to watch some competitive baseball.

“Mostly, I was there to catch some competition and also prepare myself for my starts. When you walk on the mound, it’s not the first time you’ve seen a baseball game. I wanted to get the feeling, that adrenaline of watching a game or getting prepared for a game and just prepare myself for my outings.”

Wojciechowski doesn’t agree with observers who minimize the Orioles’ chances in 2020.

“We all believe in ourselves,” Wojciechowski said. “To be honest, we get really tired of people saying, ‘Oh, they’re rebuilding, they’re not trying.

“We’re all here. We’re professionals. We’re here to compete and to win. If you’re not here to do that, you shouldn’t be here. We’re all here to win to compete. We’re all here to get better, and that’s the goal.”

The additions of left-handers Wade LeBlanc and Tommy Milone to the 40-man roster on Wednesday have solidified the rotation. The Orioles still could use Milone in a long relief role and add Kohl Stewart, but Wojciechowski thinks having Alex Cobb and John Means makes the starting staff respectable.

“I really like our rotation,” Wojciechowski said. “When people say we’re a rebuilding team, I feel like we have a very veteran rotation, guys with a lot of experience with Wade, Cobb, Milone and John with the experience he had last year and then with the experience I had last year as well.

“We’re going to push each other. We’re going to learn from one another. We all get along great. I think it’s going to be an exciting year for us moving forward and we’re going to get better and go out there and compete every day.”

Another utility year for Wilkerson: Last year, Stevie Wilkerson needed to learn to play center field and, on occasion, fill in as a reliever.

This season, Hyde hopes he doesn’t need Wilkerson in the bullpen and that Austin Hays is the everyday centerfielder.

Wilkerson, who is not on the 40-man roster, is trying to make the team again as a utility player. He’s playing the infield and outfield during workouts.

“I think it’s been a fairly even split,” Wilkerson said. “Even with our individual defense, I normally start at one place and finish up at another. The versatility this year is definitely important. I’ve been trying to get my reps in just about every spot every day.

“I don’t feel like an outfielder. I don’t feel like an infielder. I feel like a baseball player, ready to answer the call at any spot at any day.”

Intrasquad report: In an effort to make Thursday night’s intrasquad game seem more like a regular-season game, the Orioles turned on their scoreboard, pumped in music and crowd noise and used their public address announcer.

Tents were installed in the stands just past the dugouts for overflow personnel.

LeBlanc, who started for the home team wearing white jerseys, allowed a two-run home run to Chris Davis in the first inning. Kohl Stewart started for the visiting team.

Odds and ends: Hyde said that right-hander Dillon Tate, who was hit with a ball in his right elbow on July 10, is still experiencing swelling and is day-to-day … The surgeries for left-hander Ty Blach (elbow) and infielder Richie Martin (wrist) went well, Hyde said.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    July 17, 2020 at 8:13 am

    I don’t believe for a second the O’s didn’t bring Mountcastle up because they wanted him to master a defensive position, it was ALL about service time & still is…go O’s…

    • Orial

      July 17, 2020 at 8:37 am

      I’m thinking that there’s a combination of both(service time vs position).

    • cedar

      July 17, 2020 at 2:07 pm

      I think not having mastered a defensive position make it easier for the team to justify not starting the service clock.

  2. Orial

    July 17, 2020 at 8:46 am

    This is the first time I’ve felt this way but this “dragging their feet” with Mountcastle is starting to make me lose faith in him and his future. Is he really the “can’t miss” we all expect? The last 2 drafts have brought on some nice athletic players. We have international talent coming up. Last thing the O’s need is a clunker in LF going forward. Moral–yes keep working with him but let’s not put all our marbles in his basket. We can have patience but there will be others banging on the door.

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 8:59 am

      I’m not losing faith in him, them, yes, play him, if he doesn’t work out it’s not like it’s really costing you anything right now…go O’s…

    • Bancells Moustache

      July 17, 2020 at 9:12 am

      I do NOT view Ryan Mountcastle as “can’t miss” and never have. He’s promising, which is more than we can say for the rest of the roster, and that’s good enough. I am in the camp that finds it disturbing he can’t find a defensive position, though I’m curious why first base isn’t an option. The guy who should be playing first is dealing with cancer and the less said about the other option the better.

    • Baltimore Castaway

      July 17, 2020 at 10:52 am

      Two things here;

      1) I believe that at some point Mountcastle needs to held accountable for his own progress and development as a competent defensive player. He has been around long enough to take the bull by the horns and get good at a position, be it LF, 3B or 2B…

      John Means didn’t walk around with his head-down as a middling pitching prospect for the Orioles. He took it upon himself to get way better because he believed in himself and had a strong desire to become a successful Starting ML Pitcher. Elias, Hyde, Showalter and Duquette didn’t do it–he did.

      2) The Orioles still need a lot more depth throughout their System. There is no (nor should there be) motivation to try to really compete against the Top Teams in their Division. It is important for them to be picking towards the top of the next two Amateur Drafts.

      There are some fans that feel strongly otherwise, but this is the only real way that they will be able to get better beyond all the other substantial investments the team has made in Scouting, Analytics, Drafting, International, Coaching and Fitness.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        July 17, 2020 at 1:16 pm

        BC…are you advocating tanking here? Sounds like you may be.

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        July 17, 2020 at 1:18 pm

        Baltimore Castaway – I couldn’t agree with you more regarding Ryan Mountcastle. He should grab the bull by the horns by busting his butt to get really good at one position. But I think he could eventually be an average defensive left fielder given he’s only played there for 26 games at triple A last year if he’s given more time to learn and play there. He actually reminds me of Mark Trumbo playing the outfield right now and the Orioles don’t want to embarrass him or themselves by letting him learn LF at the Major League level. Even shortstop at the time Manny Machado learned how to play 3rd base at triple A before being called up and he’s no Manny Machado. I hope eventually first base will be HIS position to lose once they decide on CD crush. He certainly can hit triple A pitching but apparently so did Sisco kid and he’s now riding the bench as a backup after hitting just .210 in year 3 and in .203 for his career. Now I’m hoping Chance Sisco really hits the cover off the ball in year 4, therefore forcing more playing time from waiver claim Pedro Severino.

        Our nightmare defense as of right now according to defensive metrics information would certainly be Sisco at catcher, Renato Núñez at 3rd base, Mountcastle in LF, moving DJ Stewart to center and when he gets back Mancini in RF. I know that Buck Showalter if he was still here would not stand for this kind of defensive play. Hiding one player on defense is tough but playing all these guys would certainly look like the bad news bears according to defensive metrics.

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 1:50 pm

      Disagree with the “no motivation “ comment, good lord, these are supposed to be the best, professionals, they should, as well as ownership, always be motivated to beat the top guys…go O’s…

  3. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 17, 2020 at 9:28 am

    Wojo just doesn’t get it. Nobody believes the players aren’t trying to win. Has there EVER been a player that doesn’t ‘try’? It’s the management that some of us in the stands believe is not trying to win. And they (he?) hasn’t been for the past 2 seasons. (insert T word here) sucks.

    And I agree with BanMo in that Mountcastle is NOT a can’t miss. Mike Trout, Juan Sota, Bryce Harper … dare I say it … Manny Machado …those guys are can’t miss. If he were a can’t miss, I have faith that my man Duquette would have had him in the bigs before his departure. But that doesn’t exactly make him a bum either. And BanMo is spot on in that Mountcastle SHOULD be playing 1st base.

    Which brings me back to management’s lack of ‘hustle’. If O’s current leadership truly were trying to win, rather than what I believe has been nothing more than jockeying for draft position, our current 1st baseman would have been history last year if not sooner, and we’d have been watching Ryan Mountcastle playing 1st base since last September.

  4. NormOs

    July 17, 2020 at 9:44 am

    Mountcastle is a AAA MVP, he deserves his chance. Mullins got his chance as did others, but the O’s did not have any AAA MVP’s sitting around waiting to be given a fair chance to make it or not. Sorry guys, the only reason Wojo likes the rotation is because he’s in it.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 17, 2020 at 9:54 am

      Ya know Norm … I’m with you on your Wojo comment. If management were on the ball, I don’t think he’d be there.

  5. NormOs

    July 17, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Nunez can’t play a little bit of defense but Ryan, a AAA MVP, has to improve defensively before getting a shot? Wow, Genius1 is working overtime to come up with that kind of logic. No wonder the “REBUILD” hasn’t started yet. Go O’s!

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 10:42 am

      But the tear down has…go O’s…

      • NormOs

        July 17, 2020 at 11:38 am

        Cal, the tear down was completed when Genius 1 got rid of the last major leaguer on the roster. You can look it up.

  6. Bhoffman1

    July 17, 2020 at 11:14 am

    Wilkerson versatility is nothing more then mediocrity at the plate and different positions. The veteran staff that Asher is so high on is nothing more then one promising pitcher , a aging veteran who hasn’t shown anything the last two years and three cast offs. Bring the young guys to pitch and the birds did in their glory years specially in a crazy 60 basically exhibition season

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      July 17, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      I 2nd that thought. What have they got to lose? Oh…that’s right…don’t want to ‘ruin’ the psyche of these young me.

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 1:47 pm

      Many of us have been saying that, what the hell do you have to lose…go O’s…

  7. ClayDal

    July 17, 2020 at 12:17 pm

    The Opening Day roster is 30. It is reduced to 28 after 2 weeks and 26 after 4. Unlike past years, there is no September expansion. With Dwight Smith Jr. not in camp, and Santander recovering from COVID, the Orioles are thin in the outfield. No reason that Mountcastle can’t make the 30 man Opening Day roster. If he struggles in the field ( and at bat), can always send him down after 2 weeks. As long as he spends 6 days off the active roster, the Orioles get the extra year service time. He may be better off learning to play defense in game situations, at least for 2 weeks. If he needs more work, send him down. If not, keep him here. The difference is whether he can leave in 2025 or 2026. By that time, the Orioles will be a contender and in position to keep him. Or they are still struggling and Elias is long gone. He’s already on the 40 man roster, so you can option him at any time. I say let him start here. Send him down later if you need to

  8. Boog Robinson Robinson

    July 17, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Can someone explain to me what exactly is so hard to learn about playing left field in the major leagues? Sure I get that you have to learn to read the ball off the bat, the way it spins … maybe become familiar with the nuances of different parks, their walls, the way a ball caroms in the corners, learning to hit a cutoff man or not .. etc., but really when it comes down to it, you’re either shagging flies or watching them fly over your head.

    I mean if memory serves me, some lumbering type guys like Boog Powell, Frank Howard, Pete Incaviglia, Trey Mancini , (how’s about Greg Luzinski anyone?) have all manned left field in the major leagues. Now I’m hearing that Ryan M. possibly can’t handle it? Is he THAT slow? Is he missing sight in one eye or apposable thumbs or something?

    Some around here would say this shows how little I know about baseball, but really …explain it to me…how hard can it be?

    • Rich Dubroff

      July 17, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      Ken, if Mountcastle hits well enough, supposed shortcomings in the field will be overlooked—as they were with some of those named.

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 1:53 pm

      He has hit well enough, has zero ab’s in majors, can’t tell if he can hit there, yet…go O’s…

    • Bhoffman1

      July 17, 2020 at 4:16 pm

      I saw Mountcastle play left in spring against the Nationals. Soto hit a routine fly down the line that he wasn’t even close to catching . Plus his arm is nothing special. This guy belongs on first base problem so does Trey

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        July 17, 2020 at 5:51 pm

        I agree with you Boffman1. I also saw him play left field in 1st spring training and it wasn’t pretty. Ball hit over his head he first spun one way then back the other way and almost tripped over himself, was almost comical. And now I saw highlights from the restart, he cost them a game loss in intrasquad game. He probably really does belong on 1st base but isn’t as good as CD at picking balls thrown in the dirt or bounced yet so he won’t save any errors there right now either. He really just needs more time defensively in left field so he won’t embarrass himself. And I think the Orioles don’t want to crush his confidence and have him embarrass himself either.

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          July 17, 2020 at 7:40 pm

          I forgot to mention that ringing endorsement that even shortstop at the time Manny Machado learned how to play 3rd base at triple A before being called up and he’s no Manny Machado.

          • Rich Dubroff

            July 17, 2020 at 7:44 pm

            Actually, Machado never played at Triple-A. He learned to play third in drills with then-minor league instructor Bobby Dickerson before games at Double-A Bowie. Orioles wanted to keep it a secret.

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      Put him at first & DH Davis, if you need to play him…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 17, 2020 at 6:28 pm

      I agree with you Boog, they should just put Mountcastle in left & see why he does, he’ll either be adequate, good or horrible, but at least then EVERYONE will have evidence, Jose Canseco never played adequate defense in the OF, remember the header home run in Cleveland…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      July 20, 2020 at 5:26 pm

      Touché…go O’s…

  9. TxBirdFan

    July 17, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    I agree with ClayDal that the O’s should break camp with Mountcastle on their roster and let him play a few live games in left to see how he does. Has any other player won the AAA MVP award yet not get called up to the bigs? He’s earned it until he loses it, and as Boog says you don’t need to turn a DP to play LF. Being sent to Bowie should tick him off after what he’s accomplished. Give the man a chance! Heck – who cares if he costs us a game or two when tanking is the priority.

    • ClayDal

      July 17, 2020 at 3:29 pm

      In 2018 , Joey Meneses won the International League MVP with Leigh Valley, a Phillies affiliate. The Phillies released him after the season. He went to Japan, now is in Mexico. Looked it up in Wikipedia. So that’s one who didn’t make the majors as of yet

    • TxBirdFan

      July 17, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      Good find. I guess you could say Mountcastle sits on the Meneses line.

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