The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play: Baltimore Orioles!
Welcome to The Dynasty Guru’s Triple Play! This is a brand-new series where three very cool dynasty baseball nerds- Adam Lawler, Patrick Magnus and Keaton O. DeRocher- bring to you a succinct analysis of a pitcher, a hitter and a prospect from each organization. We’ll be running this regularly leading up to an through Opening Day!
Each team will be covered in alphabetical order. This article we’re covering the Baltimore Orioles. While we here at The Dynasty Guru are primarily baseball obsessed, we’ll also be touching on some music we’ve enjoyed from each team’s home state. Enjoy, and leave us your question and comments below!
Ryan Mountcastle, Age: 21, SS/3B
(Analysis By Patrick Magnus)
Let’s just start by recognizing that this dude has an A+ name. A power-hitter with the last name Mountcastle?! Might as well be straight out of Game of Thrones. Goodness. Anyway, onto more important #analysis, even if it doesn’t lend itself to nearly enough jokes.
Mountcastle was drafted straight out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles at pick 36 of the 2015 Draft. Scouting reports praised his “bat-to-ball” skills and raw power, but there were (and still are, as we will see) concerns about his defense. His raw power started to emerge in games during the 2017 season, popping a total of 18 long balls in 513 at-bats between Advanced-A and Double A. Those 18 home runs nearly doubled his 2016 production (10). More home runs against more advanced pitching, at SS?! Yes please.
Can This Castle be Mounted?
Now let’s take a step back, and talk about that “bat-to-ball” skill again. In 2017 young Mountcastle hit .287/.312/.489 between the two levels. I’d like you to notice that his OBP wasn’t all that higher than his batting average. This is because Mountcastle hates to walk- last year he took 17 walks while striking out 96 times. That’s not the world’s greatest plate approach. In fact, it’s not a plate approach this writer likes at all. In his brief appearance at AA (153 at-bats) his aversion to foot traffic didn’t work so well for him as he batted .222/.239/.366. Woof, gross.
Another concern that will likely impact Mountcastle’s stock as he gets close to the majors is his defense. Scouting reports suggest that Mountcastle may not have the tools to stick at shortstop, or the hot corner. He may not be long for shortstop- if his body doesn’t grow him out of it, his defense might fail him out of it (21 errors in 2017). Further, he does not have a strong enough arm to handle the left-side of the infield. This ultimately may push him into a corner outfield position where his skill set becomes less valuable.
Ryan Mountcastle or Ryan Moatcastle?
I have some slight worries concerning the development of Mountcastle’s in-game power as well. His improved home runs also came with an improved ISO, but take a look at some of skills through three levels.
|Year | Level||ISO||BB%||K%|
|2016 | A||.145||5.1%||19.4%|
|2017 | A+||.228||3.7%||16.1%|
|2017 | AA||.144||1.9%||22.0%|
There’s significantly fewer plate appearances in Double A compared to High A (379 vs 159), but his K% and ISO are closer to his A numbers than his A+. That, combined with a decrease in his walk rate as he’s advanced through the system, adds increased uncertainty to Mountcastle’s offensive profile.
Mountcastle Your Steed and Charge Ahead?
Still, Mountcastle is worth monitoring and acquiring if he’s cheap, and his 2018 season will be telling. He’s been invited to Spring Training, and with it looking more and more likely that Machado will be out of Baltimore after this year, there should be a spot for Mountcastle on the Major League roster in 2019. Thus, it will be important to watch him this spring and to monitor his progress at Double-A this year.
If Mountcastle’s aggressive approach continues to work as he faces more advanced pitching, and he can improve his defensive woes, you have a potential shortstop with plus power in Camden Yards. That’s a very useful fantasy player. Mountcastle has a chance of being a very nice asset for your fantasy team, but he’s currently a very risky one. Let’s hope for good things in 2018.
PATRICK’S ARTIST SELECTION
In the mood for something mellow to ease your Mountcastle worry? Give Baltimore’s Beach House a listen. Their soothing guitar driven tones, should help you relax. I’m a fan of their 2011 album Teen Dream. “Zebra” is a great track. Then again I’m a sucker for opening tracks.
Trey Mancini, Age: 25, 1B
(Analysis by Keaton O. DeRocher)
They say a fine wine gets better with age, but don’t tell Trey Mancini. He put on a display in his rookie season to the tune of a .293/.338/.488 slash line, accompanied by 24 homers and 78 RBI- an impressive way to break into the majors at 24 years old. Let’s take a look to see if these numbers portend a career like a Natty Lite at a frat party left on the coffee table destined to be found the next morning skunked and mistaken for bodily fluid, or like a nice bottle of Bombay Sapphire, classy and versatile, while not always being everyone first choice of gin even though it clearly should be. [Ed. Note- the views of Keaton O. DeRocher on gin do not necessarily reflect those of The Dynasty Guru or his editors]
Mancini’s exit velocity was 87.69 (nice) MPH (league average is 87.27 MPH) and his home run distance was 403ft ( league average is 400ft). That both of these numbers are essentially league average suggests there is truth to his power production and that it’s reasonable to expect that output to continue. What gives this writer pause is the extremely puzzling 5.26 degree launch angle- well below the league average of 11.75 degrees. If this carries into 2018 and starts to become a trend, rather than a one-season outlier, Mancini will turn to more of a doubles hitter rather than a home run hitter.
Moving over to his average and on-base percentage, his .293 AVG may have been helped some by his .352 batting average on balls in play. However, looking back to his historical BABIPs in the minors (wherein he had multiple years of .350+ and even a couple of .370+ BABIP seasons), one can rest a little easier. Instead, it’s more likely that his average was buoyed by his low launch angle and low fly ball % of just 29%. As Mancini begins to hit the ball in the air more, he will presumably generate more flyball outs and the average will drop some. His walk rate of 5.6%, while low, was actually the highest of his career at any level, thereby showing he’s capable of making adjustments to increasingly difficult competition.
All in all, there is a lot to like in Mancini, not the least of which being that he’s 25 and gets to hit in Camden Yards (ranked the seventh best hitters park by ESPN, and ranked 2nd best for crab fries behind AT&T park by me). Although he does carry some curious risk, I would not be hesitant to walk up to your local bartender and order up a nice gin Mancini Martini, shaken not stirred with an orange twist. Please drink responsibly.
KEATON’S ARTIST SELECTION
Sisqo – Thong Song. Nuff Said.
Mychal Givens, Age: 27, RP
(Analysis by Adam Lawler)
If you don’t know Mychal Givens yet, it is time to meet the best reliever on the Orioles staff and their soon-to-be closer. The gravity of that statement might seem bombastic, considering the presence of Zack Britton and named closer Brad Brach. However, the writing on the wall is clear. For this segment, we are going to take a minute to review Britton and Brach and then get into the platitudes for Givens.
The Beginning of Britton’s End, Given Mychal a Chance
It has been well documented that Britton ruptured his Achilles this winter (a contract year). In 2015, Sports Illustrated did a phenomenal job diving into what exactly an Achilles rupture does to an athlete. To save you a few minutes please allow me to summarize. First, once a tendon ruptures – even if you do return to the sport, which isn’t guaranteed – you are never 100% again. Second, players that do return have a marked decrease in power and only play a few more seasons. This does not bode well for a power closer coming back to form.
Even if Britton comes back guns blazing, there are other major contextual hurdles to consider with regards to Britton:
- He will not return before late June, and this timetable does not include rehab stints in the minors.
- This is Britton’s second major injury in as many years. Last year, he had a balky ankle and a recurring forearm strain (yikes) throughout the 2017 campaign.
- As previously mentioned, Britton is in a contract year and will certainly look to get paid. Even though his 2018 arbitration number was $12 million, recent cases of similarly elite free agent closers (Melancon, Davis, Chapman, Jansen) indicate a payday is coming.
Further, the Orioles can be notoriously stingy. I wouldn’t bank on them doling out $16 million per year for a 30 year old, oft-injured reliever that they were actively shopping prior to his most recent injury.
Temporary Brach Block
Truth be told, I actually like Brach. He performed admirably during Britton’s 2017 absence and became a formidable mid-tier closer in the process. However, in the later months of last season it was clear he was getting gassed. Average velocity on both his four-seam fastball and slider lost a few ticks as the season wore on, which caused his strikeout-to-walk ratio to dip as batters began to hit him and hit him hard.
More importantly, perhaps, is that a lot of the same contextual factors apply to Brach as they did to Britton. Brach is 31, in a contract year, and was reportedly being shopped around during July of last year. Logically, one could assume that the Orioles will try and pump up Brach’s value and get something for him in lieu of Britton.
Givens is a Given
Being a presumed, eventual, de-facto closer is not the biggest endorsement, so let’s take a minute to revel in Givens’ greatness. He’s carved from the mold of all other Orioles relievers. He has a heavy sink to his fastball, a slider that generates whiffs and groundballs, and a changeup that generates plenty of whiffs and groundballs. Literally, I could copy and paste that summary for Britton and Brach.
So what makes Givens intriguing? Well, first and foremost, he’s 27 years old with four more years of control. As referenced before, the Orioles continue to covet cheap arms and avoid paying out when possible. While the Orioles were reportedly shopping Givens, I would suspect they will move him only if the offer is truly enticing. From an aesthetic perspective, I really like his approach on the mound. He has a quick motion from the stretch and hides the ball well. This makes it extremely hard for the batters to react, especially to a 96 MPH fastball coming in on a right-handed batter’s hands.
Also, while he doesn’t induce the Brittonian level of groundballs, he is on-par with Brach. What might be more intriguing from a fantasy owner’s perspective is his strikeouts-per-nine rate of 10.07, which can only be increased if he opts to utilize his slider more often. While that isn’t everything, it’s certainly something I seek out when identifying potential future closers.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Givens’ Left On Base percentage of 86% and BABIP of .278 were abnormal in 2017, and should regress back to his previous rates of 78% (read higher ERA). Also, he gave up a few more long balls (both HR/9, HR/FB%) than relievers who pitched 50 innings or more in 2017.
In the end though, Mychal Givens is a name to circle in the later rounds. While names like Carl Edwards Jr., Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances will be sought out earlier, Givens will jump up the boards as the season progresses. At the beginning of the season, he can be a phenomenal play for ratios, Ks, and holds. As the season continues, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him valued as a top-12 closer. This is the type of player you jump on early in dynasty formats and either flip for assets or ride to a pennant.
ADAM’S ARTIST SELECTION
Future Islands, originally constructed in eastern North Carolina and relocated to Baltimore, burst onto the scene in 2010 with Into the Evening Air. If you haven’t seen their performance on Letterman, it’s worth checking out. That’s the type of energy they bring to every performance. Believe me, I’ve seen them a handful of times and every time is a fun experience that can only be described as “What the hell did I just witness?”
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