Ryan Mountcastle Talks Hitting

Ryan Mountcastle has a relatively straightforward approach to hitting. To say that it works for him would be stating the obvious. Since debuting with the Baltimore Orioles in late August of last year, the 24-year-old first baseman/outfielder has gone deep 37 times in 706 plate appearances. There are admittedly swing-and-miss issues — Mountcastle’s 26.1 K% is less than ideal — but his .273/.326/.492 slash line and 118 wRC+ are rock solid for a player with barely more than a full season under his belt. Power is Mountcastle’s calling card. Earlier this month, the former first-round pick set an Orioles rookie record for home runs in a season when he left the yard for the 29th time. He’s since added three more.

Mountcastle talked hitting on a recent visit to Fenway Park.


David Laurila: Let’s start with one of my favorite ice-breaker questions: Do you view hitting as more of an art, or as more of a science?

Ryan Mountcastle: “Man, that’s tough. I would say more of an art. Everybody’s got their own swing, and everybody’s got their own mindset when it comes to hitting. So I think it’s more of an art for each person, how they picture it in their minds.”

Laurila: How would you describe your artistry at the plate?

Mountcastle: “Mostly, I try to keep it simple. I just try to get a pitch over the middle of the plate that I can drive and stay toward the middle of the field. I don’t try to do too much. I just want to stay within my approach and hopefully hit the ball hard.”

Laurila: Would you say your approach is basically to hunt heaters and adjust from there?

Mountcastle: “Pretty much.”

Laurila: That said, not all pitchers are created equal. Right?

Mountcastle: “Yeah. I mean, it depends on the pitcher on the mound, whether he’s more of a guy that likes to come in, or a guy who likes to stay away, maybe soft away. Whatever it is, you’ve got to be able to adjust. Sometimes it might be backing off the plate a little bit, or maybe getting on the plate a little bit. But swing-wise, I think it’s kind of the same swing every day. I try to stay with that approach.”

Laurila: “You’ll move around in the box at times…

Mountcastle: “Yeah, depending on what the pitcher has. Most of the time, I’ll be in the same spot, but if they keep pounding a certain location, I’ll try to back off, or get on the plate a little more.”

Laurila: Do you ever move up in the box?

Mountcastle: “Not really. I’m normally in the same spot, forward and backward; I’m usually towards the back of the box. So, yeah, I’m just moving off the plate, or toward the plate.”

Laurila: Have you always done that?

Mountcastle: “It’s more once I got up here. You need more of an approach up here, as opposed to in the minor leagues. These guys can just keep hitting spot after spot, and if you can’t hit it… I mean, you’ve got to find a way to adjust. One of my adjustments has been either moving off, or [toward the plate].”

Laurila: What about your stance and your swing? Do they ever vary?

Mountcastle: “Sometimes. With two strikes, I like to widen out. Before that, I’m a little bit more upright. With two strikes, I like to widen out and really simplify the swing. I’ll maybe think more middle, and the other way. The swing doesn’t really change, though. My path and my load stay pretty much the same.”

Laurila: What is your timing mechanism?

Mountcastle: “Before two strikes, it’s more like a little bit of a leg kick. I’m trying to be early and easy, so that I’m on time with the fastball and able to adjust to any off-speed. With two strikes, I guess it’s kind of the same thing: early and easy, and don’t let a fastball get by me.”

Laurila: Changing direction a bit, have you trained with products like Blast Motion or K-vest? And if you have, what have you learned about your swing?

Mountcastle: “Some of the numbers are pretty complicated. I don’t know what they are, but I’ve done them before and it’s pretty cool to see your bat speed and all that. I worked with some guys at K-vest this past off-season and they said my swing was pretty good. As far as what you want, my numbers were good. They said not to change too much.”

Laurila: If I looked at video of you now and compared it to when you first signed, would I see the same guy?

Mountcastle: “I would say that it’s pretty different from high school to now. I had more movement in the box, and now it’s more simple and slower. I’m also more upright.”

Laurila: Where was most of the excess movement?

Mountcastle: “Hands and lower body. I was always… I was quick with the load, and now it’s more still. But I do still like to move my hands, just to have some rhythm.”

Laurila: Have you ever worked on hitting more balls in the air, or is your natural swing geared to do just that?

Mountcastle: “I’ve worked on it a little bit. Going into my High-A season, I worked with some hitting guys, trying to get more lift on the ball. I’ve always had good bat speed, but when I hit a ball good it tended to be doubles as opposed to home runs. So I have tried to get it a little more air, but nothing too crazy.”

Laurila: Last one: do you consider yourself a power hitter, or is that a label you prefer to stay away from?

Mountcastle: “I want to be an all-around good hitter. I want to be a guy who gets on base, and a guy who drives in runs. Power hitter… I don’t think it’s a bad label, but sometimes people hear that and think, ‘He strikes out too much,’ or ‘He doesn’t walk enough.’ But being a power hitter isn’t a bad thing. Being able to drive in runs is definitely a positive for the team. I want to do anything I can to help the team.”


Earlier “Talks Hitting” interviews can found through these links: Jeff Albert, Greg Allen, Nolan Arenado, Aaron Bates, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, JJ Bleday, Jay Bruce, Matt Chapman, Michael Chavis, Jacob Cruz, Nelson Cruz, Paul DeJong, Josh Donaldson, Rick Eckstein, Drew Ferguson, Justin Foscue, Joey Gallo, Devlin Granberg, Andy Haines, Mitch Haniger, Tim Hyers, Jimmy Kerr, Trevor Larnach, Evan Longoria, Michael Lorenzen, Gavin Lux, Dave Magadan, Trey Mancini, Edgar Martinez, Don Mattingly, Cedric Mullins, Daniel Murphy, Brent Rooker,, Drew Saylor, Fernando Tatis Jr., Justin Turner, Mark Trumbo, Zac Veen, Luke Voit, Jordan Westburg, Jesse Winker, Nick Yorke.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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