The other night I found myself in Salisbury, Maryland, home of my alma mater, Salisbury University, and the Delmarva Shorebirds, the Single-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. Nestled between chicken farms, the University, and the beach, the small stadium was once home to current Orioles Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, and Zach Britton. Currently the Shorebirds are hosting the Orioles’ first round picks from the 2015 draft, D.J. Stewart (selected 25th overall) and Ryan Mountcastle (selected 36th overall). In order to get a look at a couple of the top prospects in the Orioles’ system (and partly for the two dollar beer special) I stopped by for a game.
Stewart, the lefty-batting outfielder from Florida State University, played in left field and batted in the third slot in the order. The former ‘Nole generated his club’s first run of the night in the bottom of the third on a sac fly which scored Mountcastle and tied the game. The rest of his night at the plate was quiet, however, as he turned in an 0-for-3 with a walk. Stewart has seemingly struggled so far this year posting an average of .204 through 30 games. Despite the low average, Stewart has an on-base percentage of .380, which has been bolstered by his team-leading 24 walks. Stewart’s struggles making contact is likely partially due to the team working with him on his stance, which was notably low and crouched throughout his time in college. His stance was a topic of debate during his time with the team in spring training and the alterations are likely taking their toll on Stewart’s timing at the plate. The bat will come around for Stewart, who posted a teaming leading .318 average his senior year in college, and the patience he has shown the plate is certainly a plus. Defensively, Stewart roams the outfield well and is surprisingly quick for someone who measures 6’0″ and 230 pounds.
Mountcastle, the 19-year-old shortstop, had an impressive day at the plate going 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI. The young infielder has posted a .264 average through 29 games and ranks third on the team in hits with 29. Unfortunately, the shortstop leads the team in errors with six. If you’re familiar with minor league baseball, you know errors are bound to happen in bulk, especially in the infield. While you’d like to less in the error department from the first round pick, he’s still incredibly young and has a lot of time to get used to the speed of playing pro ball. Mountcastle, who was ranked as the 110th best player in the 2015 draft by MLB.com, was chosen early by the Orioles who were looking to add some depth to the offense. He has shown that he can produce with the Shorebirds and hopefully he will continue to grow at the plate as well as in the field.
While it is obviously too early to say what sort of players these two will turn into, it is inspiring to see them performing relatively well in the farm system. Assuming Stewart’s bat comes around and Mountcastle settles in to the speed of the game, they will likely be promoted through the minor league ranks quickly. For the time being, the Shorebirds, with Manager Ryan Minor at the helm, will take good care of the Orioles’ newest prospects.