Ryan Mountcastle (BAL): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.
After yesterday’s 8-1 win over the Oakland Athletics, the Orioles remain 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card race. While the Orioles have won four in a row, they haven’t gained much ground in the last week with Toronto winning two in a row and the Mariners and Rays, two other Wild Card candidates, winning six and five games in a row as well, respectively.
In order to play in their first postseason game since 2016, the Orioles need a better-than-expected finish in the win-loss column during the month of September.
And a strong month at the plate from Ryan Mountcastle would help them accomplish that goal.
After hitting .255 with a .796 OPS which included 33 home runs in 586 plate appearances in 2021, Mountcastle has seen some of his metrics cool off this year. While he has hit 21 home runs this year in 494 plate appearances, his average is down to .248, and his OPS is also down at .736.
On the other hand, some additional metrics suggest that Mountcastle may be due for a strong September.
His K rate of 24.9% is down 1.6 points from a year ago, and his barrel rate (13.6%) and hard-hit rate (45.3%) are higher than his marks in those respective categories in 2021. Furthermore, his expected wOBA (xwOBA) and expected slugging (xSLG) are 37 and 59 points higher than his actual wOBA and SLG, respectively. That is a far cry from a year ago when his xwOBA was nine points lower than his actual wOBA and his xSLG was 30 points lower than his SLG.
Mountcastle’s batted ball quality this year demonstrates that he’s been better than his batting average and OPS suggest.
To be fair, Mountcastle is coming off rough months in July and August at the plate. He posted OPS numbers of .541 and .631 in July and August, respectively, and he is only hitting .194 after the All-Star Break. That being said, September has been a much different month, as he is currently hitting .455 with a 1.733 OPS in 12 plate appearances this month. He also has hit three home runs, which included the two he hit at Camden Yards on Saturday against the A’s.
The last AL Wild Card spot is still up for grabs between the Orioles, Jays, and Twins (the Rays and Mariners look pretty good for the other two spots, barring something dramatic happening). If the Orioles want to punch their playoff ticket, Mountcastle needs to build on this torrid start to the month of September.
Because a hot-hitting Mountcastle will not just help Baltimore get to the postseason, but he will also help them in the playoffs as well, should they make it.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday
Tyrone Taylor (MIL): 3-5, 2B, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, SB.
Taylor has had two good months this year in May and July (.872 and .849 OPS marks, respectively), but has been pretty bad in those other three (sub-.600 OPS marks in April, June, and August). The Brewers are hoping that September can be closer to May and July, especially as Milwaukee makes a push to the playoffs. On Saturday, Taylor gave Brewers hope, as he not only hit two home runs but stole a base as well against the Diamondbacks.
Mookie Betts (LAD): 2-4, 3B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB.
It’s easy to forget about Betts with Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner on the Dodgers roster. But Betts continues to pace this Dodgers lineup at the top of the batting order, as he is hitting .281 with a .918 OPS. In a 12-1 blowout of the Padres on Saturday, Betts collected three RBI, a triple, and a home run, the latter being his 33rd of the year.
Nate Eaton (KC): 4-5, 2B, 3B, R, 2 RBI, SB.
After hitting a home run in his MLB debut in Toronto (when 10 Royals were placed on the restricted list due to their vaccination status), Eaton struggled at the plate in August, as he was sent back down to Omaha after only hitting .182 with a .573 OPS. On Saturday, he made his first start since being called up after rosters expanded to 28, and boy did he make the most of it. Eaton collected four hits and a stolen base and raised his average to .245 and OPS to .733, as of Sunday.
Paul Goldschmidt (STL): 2-4, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB, SB.
Against the rival Cubs, Goldschmidt added to his NL MVP case, as he collected two hits, two RBI, a home run, and his sixth stolen base of the year. Goldschmidt’s numbers are absolutely ridiculous: .331 average; 1.036 OPS; 34 home runs; and 107 RBI. In terms of fWAR, he is still slightly behind teammate Nolan Arenado (6.9 to Arenado’s 7.0 fWAR). That being said, even though Goldschmidt’s defense leaves a bit to be desired (he ranks in the bottom 5th percentile in outs above average), he leads all the traditional metrics (average, home runs, RBI), which will sway old-school voters.
Luis García (WSH): 4-5, 2 2B, HR, R, RBI.
The Nationals spoiled things for the Mets on Saturday, as Washington won 7-1 in New York. García was the main catalyst in the Nationals’ win, as he collected four hits, which included two doubles and a home run, his sixth of the year. The 22-year-old infielder is currently slashing .300/.312/.447 in 267 plate appearances this season. That is a promising sign for the Nationals’ future, even if it may take a few years for this club to get back to playoff contention.
Romy Gonzàlez (CWS): 3-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.
The White Sox demolished the Twins 13-0 on the South Side, and Twins fans have to be shaking their heads in disgust when Chicago’s nine-hole hitter has the best day offensively of any player on the field on Saturday. Gonzàlez not only had three hits but hit his first home run of the year, a 411-foot blast with an exit velocity of 103.1 MPH off of Minnesota’s Aaron Sanchez. The 25-year-old out of the University of Miami only has 21 career MLB games under his belt, and White Sox fans may be wondering if he can be a long-term piece or is simply a Four-A player. September will be a good measuring stick.
Bryson Stott (PHI): 3-4, HR, 3 R, RBI.
The Phillies lost 5-4 to the Giants in San Francisco, but Stott did all he could to keep them in the game. The Phillies shortstop had three hits and scored three runs in the loss on Saturday. Stott, the Phillies’ first-round pick in 2019, has had a rough year at the plate, as he is only hitting .231 with a .656 OPS in 367 plate appearances. However, he has been much better after the All-Star Break, as he is hitting .294 and posting an OPS of .796 in the second half. He is also posting a .784 OPS against lefties this year, which is a good sign that he’ll get to be more of an everyday player over the month of September.
Cooper Hummel (ARI): 2-3, 2 2B, 2 R, RBI.
Hummel has assumed the role of the Diamondbacks’ backup catcher, especially as Arizona has made Daulton Varsho a permanent mainstay in the outfield (so long catcher eligibility for Varsho in 2023). While he did have two hits against the Brewers on Saturday, he is only hitting .179 with a .584 OPS in 172 plate appearances. He’s pretty much there in Arizona to give Carson Kelly days off and little else.
Oneil Cruz (PIT): 2-4, 3B, RBI.
The Cruz hype train hasn’t quite materialized as expected, as Cruz is only hitting .204 with a .668 OPS in 238 plate appearances for the Pirates this year. Strikeouts continue to be an issue, as he is striking out 37.4 percent of the time in 2022 (and only walking 6.7 percent of the time). The flash is still there, as he is posting a barrel rate of 14.3 percent, and he collected a dynamic triple against the Blue Jays on Saturday. But, he is still a work-in-progress, and that may carry over into 2023 as well, much to the chagrin of keeper and dynasty league players who roster him.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Regarding Varsho’s C eligibility for 2023: It’s common practice for platforms/leagues to use previous season GP at positions to determine eligibility for the current season, and Varsho has 31 games at catcher in 2022. So unless you’re playing in an unusual format he will retain eligibility for 2023, then most likely lose it for 2024.
Who do you think has been the best rookie overall: Julio Rodriguez or Michael Harris? Who projects better into the future?