Mountcastle was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday, Dan Connolly of The Athletic reports. Mountcastle is an interesting prospect, though he didn't appear to be a favor to break camp with the team, and his uninspiring .235/.235/.412 slash line in 34 spring plate appearances didn't exactly help his case. After hitting .312/.344/.527 with 25 homers in 127 games for Norfolk last season, however, he doesn't have a whole lot left to prove in the minors.
Mountcastle hit .235/.235/.412 with one home run and nine strikeouts over 34 plate appearances this spring. Mountcastle was working at first base and in the outfield before spring training was suspended, although it's unlikely that he'll be on the major-league roster when play resumes. However, designated hitter Renato Nunez has been working at third base this spring, which could open up more opportunities for Mountcastle if he makes his likely debut in 2020, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports.
Mountcastle has been primarily been working out at first base in the Orioles' early full-squad workouts, though manager Brandon Hyde said he plans to expose the 23-year-old to the outfield as well, Rich Dubroff of BaltimoreBaseball.com reports. Baltimore protected Mountcastle from the Rule 5 draft over the winter in anticipation of him debuting from the big club in 2020, but he'll be hard pressed to crack the Opening Day roster. Instead, Mountcastle's main focus this spring will be increasing his versatility on the defensive end, as his bat is probably already good enough to warrant an opportunity in the majors. Entering the season, Trey Mancini, Renato Nunez and Anthony Santander are seemingly locked into full-time roles at either first base, the corner outfield or designated hitter, so Mountcastle seems most likely to cut into the playing time of Chris Davis once the Orioles deem him big-league ready.
Mountcastle was added to the Orioles' 40-man roster Wednesday. Mountcastle's .312/.344/.527 with 25 home runs for Triple-A Norfolk in 2019 prompted some speculation that he could make his major-league debut, but he never reached Baltimore's roster. While his addition to the 40-man roster is mainly to shield him from the Rule 5 draft, it wouldn't be entirely surprising if the 22-year-old reached the majors at some point next season.
Mountcastle will not be promoted to the majors this season, Nathan Ruiz of The Baltimore Sun reports. Mountcastle enjoyed success in his first season with Triple-A Norfolk, slashing .310/.343/.527 with 25 home runs and 82 RBI in 126 games for the Tides, but he'll have to wait until 2020 to make his big-league debut. The 22-year-old doesn't walk much (4.4 percent walk rate) and isn't a great defender, but he makes solid contact and could reasonably hit .280 with 20-25 home runs once he reaches the majors.
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