Howl’s Moving Mountcastle

Checking in on Saturday's hottest offensive outbursts

Ryan Mountcastle (BAL): 4-4, 3 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.

Though it’s not his first career multi-homer effort—he got there first in a scorching-hot September 2020—Ryan Mountcastle’s three homers and four hits on Saturday were both career-highs, and are just the latest part of a June in which the rookie corner player has looked the part of a future franchise cornerstone, blasting pitchers for a 1.187 OPS with 7 dingers and 19 RBI over just 15 games for the month, and that includes an 0-for-10 stretch right in the middle of it.

The offensive bar for right-handed corner-position bats is pretty high, so it’s always a little nerve-wracking when one who is considered to be a top prospect has to move down the positional spectrum before even reaching the Majors, as Mountcastle did after being drafted in the first round out of high school in 2015. Though his exit velos and raw power have lived up to the hype, plate discipline remains the primary hurdle to consistency for the rookie, as a 31%/4% K/BB rate is difficult to overcome under any circumstances. That being said, despite being listed as a first baseman primarily DHing this season, Mountcastle isn’t an instant corner slugger in the Andrew Vaughn mold. His sprint speed has measured in the top-20% in the game this year, making the high BABIP he’s had in his brief time in the big leagues appear a bit more sustainable than it might otherwise.

Mountcastle will have plenty of leeway to get his walks and strikeouts worked out over the next year-plus of Baltimore’s rebuild, and there’s some reason to have faith that he might get there. While his walk numbers in the minors were never particularly strong, he’s typically had strikeout rates in the 18%-22% range, including a 21% mark in his MLB debut last year, making this year’s struggles look more like an aberration than expectations. Sometimes, hitters just can’t quite get over the hump against major league pitching in spite of solid minor league production, but there’s little reason yet to think that this is too much more than an early adjustment period. It will be worth watching to see how far Mountcastle swings in the other direction once his bat cools off, and whether he’ll be able to adjust to prevent the whiffs from completely bottoming out his productions once pitchers inevitable make their own adjustments to his current approach.

Let’s see how the other hitters did Saturday

Manny Machado (SD): 1-3, 2B, 3 RBI, BB, SB.

Machado filled up the stat sheet last night, doing most of his damage with a critical bases-clearing double to give the Padres their first lead of the game, and also adding a walk and stolen base along the way. After looking like he’d lost a bit of a step in his first year in San Diego, Machado now has seven steals on the season and 13 since the start of 2020, putting him on pace to approach his career-high of 20 set all the way back in 2015.

Brandon Belt (SF): 1-3, HR, R, RBI, BB, SB.

An unlikely source of one of the night’s only combo meals, Belt’s quietly solid production this season is nothing to sleep on—don’t look now, but in 103 games since the start of 2020, Belt has slashed .281/.398/.562 with 20 homers and 20 doubles, and he and teammate Brandon Crawford look poised to make a run at the Giants’ first 30-homer campaign since Barry Bonds in his final MVP campaign in 2004.

Andrew Vaughn (CWS): 2-3, HR, R, RBI, BB.

Vaughn was a sole bright spot for the White Sox on Saturday as they dropped their third consecutive game to Houston, launching his sixth homer of the year, an opposite-field bomb against Framber Valdez. It’s been an up-and-down initiation in the big leagues for Vaughn, whose 57 games played this season are already more than his entire minor league career, none of which came above class A. That being said, he’s heating up again as of late, reaching base in nine of his last 19 plate appearances, including two homers and two doubles. His average exit velocity, max exit velocity, and hard-hit rate all rank in the top 11% of the major leagues, and being rostered in just under a third of standard ESPN 12-team leagues, he’ll likely be a popular add once time and experience add a little more consistent contact (and playing time) to his profile.

Kyle Schwarber (WSH): 2-4, 2 HR, 2 R, 4 RBI.

Schwarber’s profile is likely set at this point in his career, but he was at his best in the second half of Washington’s doubleheader split with the Mets, notching the tenth multi-homer game of his career and second on the season in the Nats’ 6-2 win. After hitting just .188 in an abysmal 2020, Schwarber has more or less returned to his typical norms in 2021, running a 113 wRC+ perfectly in line with his career averages. Washington has quietly won six of their last seven games now, with Schwarber batting .346 with five homers in that span.

Will Smith (LAD): 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI, BB.

The Fresh Prince gets the gold star in the Dodgers’ 9-3 rout over the poor Diamondbacks, putting up his second three-hit game of the season after doing so all the way back in his second start of the season on April 2nd. He’s done it without much fanfare, but Smith has quietly lived up to expectations as one of the best catchers in baseball, offensive or otherwise, ranking second in all of MLB behind only Buster Posey with 2.5 fWAR thus far in 2021. Smith is the real deal, and batting fourth in the Dodgers’ lineup with Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Max Muncy all sidelined, he ought to be getting a boatload of run-producing opportunities in the coming weeks.

Willy Adames (MIL): 4-5, 3 2B, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI.

Adames had a huge night in the Brewers’ tight win over Colorado last night, joining Mountcastle with four hits on the day, including three doubles and a dramatic two-run bomb to give Milwaukee the lead in the 9th inning. Adames is just the fifth Brewer ever with four extra-base hits in a game, joining Ryan Braun, Damian Miller, Richie Sexson, and Paul Molitor; he’s now got a .873 OPS in 27 games since his trade to Milwaukee.

Jared Walsh (LAA): 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.

The Angels’ other two-way phenom has cooled off a bit since a smoking-hot start to the season, but he’s seen his power tick back up recently after an early-June lull with four homers, three doubles, and ten runs batted in over his last week of play. Even with Trout still healing, the Angels’ offense is, as usual, a force to be reckoned with, and Walsh has taken full advantage of the numerous run-producing opportunities afforded to him in a lineup sandwiched with Shohei Ohtani, Anthony Rendon, and Justin Upton, ranking near the top of the MLB leaderboards with a full 50 runs driven in this season. Late bloomer though he may be, there’s little reason to believe the former 39th-round pick’s bat isn’t a legit force.

Adam Duvall (MIA): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 4 RBI, SB.

Speaking of runs batted in, the other combo meal of the night on the evening went to another unlikely candidate, and four ribeyes that Duvall tacked on to his total last night have now given him the National League lead at 52, and while the Marlins probably won’t be giving us the same feel-good story we were treated to in the shortened season, it’s probably time to start coming to terms with the fact that Adam Duvall might actually be a pretty damn good baseball player:

Isiah Kiner-Falefa (TEX): 2-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI.

Catcher eligibility miraculously still intact, Kiner-Falefa continues to be a revelation for an otherwise utterly moribund Texas team, showing himself to be a true four-tool threat who can still hurt you with a little pop, as he did with a homer and double against the Twins on Saturday. The dearth of power and the relative paucity of walks keep him from being a true force with the bat, but his contact-speed combination has fully materialized this year, batting nearly .320 over his last 55 games and already stealing 15 bases while getting caught just once.

Marcus Semien (TOR): 2-4, 2 HR, 3 R, 3 RBI, BB.

Semien was one of eight players to register a multi-homer game on Saturday—yes, eight of them, so don’t complain when we don’t quite have space to get to your favorite!—and his second go-around at a contract year continues to be exponentially more successful than the first, with last night’s outburst raising his wRC+ to 142, a touch higher than the 2019 total that got him a top-three MVP finish. Routinely sitting at the top of the lineup and having a ball setting the table for the rest of Toronto’s dangerous offense, don’t expect Semien to stop racking up the counting stats anytime soon.

Rhys Hoskins (PHI): 3-6, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 6 RBI.

Hoskins led the charge in Philadelphia’s rout of San Francisco last night, driving in a league-high 6 runs and belting two homers of his own to bring his season total to 15, part of a night in which eight different players went deep at least twice, most since 2019. Hoskins is now 5 of 15 with three homers, a double, and a pair of walks since breaking a brutal 0-for-35 stretch earlier this month.

Cedric Mullins (BAL): 2-5, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.

Mullins’ unlikely All-Star campaign continued with gusto on Saturday, becoming the first Oriole to have multiple homers in consecutive days since Chris Davis in September 2015, also against Toronto, incidentally. It’s the fourth multi-homer game for Mullins this season, who’s on pace to approach 30 this season despite modest raw power. He has a healthy lead over all other big-league hitters with 86 hits on the year and is now tied with Ronald Acuña Jr. for second in MLB with 3.5 fWAR. It’s another year in the basement for Baltimore, but they appear to have stumbled upon a legitimate building block for the future in the 26-year old outfielder.

Bobby Dalbec (BOS): 3-3, 3B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI.

Dalbec had perhaps the finest game of his young career yesterday, coming up a double short of the cycle and notching the highest exit velocity of the game with his 114 MPH screaming triple against a struggling Brad Keller. Dalbec is starting to find a little success after a tough first couple of months in the big leagues, notching 11 hits (six for extra bases) in his last 30 at-bats, and is worth keeping an eye on if he can keep it up. The first baseman’s power has never been in question, and with a max exit velo approaching 116 MPH, it’s manifested just fine in the majors. His ability to hit in the majors is an open question that has yet to be resolved, however; in spite of his spat of power recently, his plate discipline has shown little sign of improvement, so unless his bottom-3% whiff and strikeout rates start to nudge in the right direction, he’ll probably remain little more than a traditional platoon-oriented three-true-outcome slugger.

Featured Imaged by Ethan Kaplan (@DJFreddie10 on Twitter)

Zach Hayes

Zach is based in Chicago and contributes analysis and coverage for Pitcher List and South Side Sox. He also co-hosts the Shaggin' Flies podcast with Ben Palmer, and enjoys reading, Justin Fields highlights, and people-watching on the CTA.

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