Over the next few weeks, Camden Chat writers will be looking at the projected performance for most of the expected regulars on the Orioles roster. We’ll be sizing up what would have to go right for players to beat the projections, or go wrong for players to fail to live up to them, and polling readers for each player.
Ryan Mountcastle began last season as one of the few sure things on the roster. Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander were expected to perform, and Trey Mancini had established himself by winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2021. Baltimore expected John Means to anchor a rotation filled with question marks and that was pretty much it.
Several players emerged to help catapult the Orioles forward while Mountcastle stood out of the spotlight at first base. He became the primary first baseman after the Birds dealt Mancini and improved defensively after bouncing around as a prospect. Mancini became the early poster boy for players scorned by the new left field wall, but Mountcastle inherited the title along with first base in July.
Mountcastle continued his trend of hitting the ball hard. He ranked in the 88th percentile of exit velocity and the 82nd percentile for hard hit percentage. Unfortunately, his chase rate fell in the bottom 10 percent of the league.
His lack of plate discipline is an issue, but Mountcastle offset it with a barrel percentage in the 94th percentile. Advanced stats say he hit the ball hard and experienced plenty of bad luck.
Statcast assigned Mountcastle an expected batting average of .277 compared to his actual average of .250. His expected slugging percentage of .509 ranked significantly higher than his actual .423.
His numbers could have been better last season, but will they even out this year?
2022: .250/.305/.423 HR: 22
ZiPS: .269/.322/.482 HR: 29
Steamer: .253/.312/.443 HR: 25 (both Zips and Steamer courtesy of FanGraphs)
Marcel: .260/.316/.447 HR: 23 (Courtesy of baseball reference)
The Marcel slash line falls in the middle of the projections but predicts the least amount of home runs. A second consecutive season with 23 homers or less would be a disappointment, but the wall could cost him four or five homers next season. Marcel assigns Mountcastle a .763 OPS after he posted a .729 number last season.
The case for the over
The expected numbers show that Mouncastle got shortchanged last season. A believer would point to those stats and say Mountcastle could certainly bat in the .270s while posting a slugging percentage that starts with the number five. He’s going to hit the ball hard and should end up with a few more knocks this season.
His chase rate leaves plenty of room for improvement. Better plate discipline would allow Mountcastle to barrel up more balls and see the OBP jump with a few more walks. A lineup strengthened by Rutschman and Henderson should provide him more protection and could demand more pitches in the strike zone.
The case for the under
The book is out on Mountcastle expanding the strike zone. He could easily hit .250 again next season even with a few more homers. The wall isn’t moving back in, and some early frustration could cause the 26-year-old to press.
Baltimore does not have a clear backup at first without Mancini or Jesús Aguilar. It remains to be seen whether the Orioles will use a roster spot for Lewin Díaz, Ryan O’Hearn, Franchy Cordero or another wild card. First base is not an overly strenuous position, but the lack of a true backup could lead to some extra wear and tear for the righty.
Will Mountcastle have better luck this season? Vote in the poll and defend your position in the comments below.
Will Ryan Mountcastle go over or under his Marcel projected .763 OPS in 2023?
This poll is closed
Tomorrow: Dean Kremer