After a strong 2021 season, the arrow was pointing up for Ryan Mountcastle and that was certainly reflected in his NFBC ADP. The Baltimore Orioles first baseman was the seventh 1B off the board in fantasy baseball drafts this past off-season at an ADP 116. For me, it was a price that I did not feel comfortable paying as I viewed it as the peak of Mountcastle’s value and there were simply too many concerns. Ultimately, Mountcastle is having a pretty strong season for fantasy baseball lineups, at least in the context of what he did in 2021. Still, I would label his 2022 season as a disappointment based on the ADP as he hasn't lived up to his earlier fantasy baseball rankings and MLB projections. Let's take a look at the Orioles first baseman in the latest fantasy baseball player spotlight.
Ryan Mountcastle Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight
As a right-handed batter, a decision made by the Orioles that took place over the winter ultimately had a strong impact on Mountcastle. We'll get to that in a minute, but I am not sure how noticeable the impact really is if you just look at his stat line.
In 144 games last season, Mountcastle hit .255 but the main takeaway here was his 33 home runs and 89 RBI. Those are the main numbers that drew optimism entering this season as Mountcastle’s production came along with a .232 ISO, an 11.8% barrel-rate and an average launch angle of 16.3 degrees. So far, you have to like what you are seeing out of a young player in his first full season at the major league level at the age of 24. Mountcastle had a strong line drive rate 22.1% and when he did put the bat on the ball there was a strong body of work.
Given today’s climate, a .255 batting average could certainly be a lot worse but it does limit the overall upside. Plus, with a 27.5% strikeout rate, there was some cause for concern. On the scale of concern, though, it was not nearly as large as the decision by the Orioles to make Camden Yards more pitcher-friendly and to move back the left-field fence. Considering we were drafting Mountcastle at what I perceived to be his peak and the strikeouts were higher than we would have liked, I was not feeling great about the first baseman heading into 2022.
We have to separate Mountcastle the baseball player from Mountcastle the fantasy performer as there is a difference here. Through 125 games this year, he does have 21 home runs. If we are simply going to compare his year-to-year production, then it is a disappointment even if he should not shoulder a large amount of the blame. His expected home run total at 25 does make things look a little better, but when you take a look at what his home run total would be in a different park, the gap gets even smaller with that mark getting closer to 30.
From a performance standpoint, Mountcastle’s ISO has taken a substantial dip down to .183 but at that level, there is still value and production to be found. Despite that, and the decreased home run pace, Mountcastle is actually making better contact at the plate with a 14.7% barrel-rate and a 45.7% hard-hit rate (both career highs) but the results have not followed. As an added bonus, Mountcastle has brought his strikeout rate down to 24.9%.
While Mountcastle still has some years to go before he reaches his peak, based on age, I would opine that it is very possible he has settled into a performance level. His metrics do support it, and at this point, I am not sure that Mountcastle will ever be an asset in the batting average department. At this point, we have to stop looking at Mountcastle through the lens of potential and instead just look at him for what he is, and there is nothing wrong with that.
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