Keegan Akin Vies For EL Pitching Triple Crown
The Orioles are in the process, and it’s been a lengthy one, of determining the right position for Ryan Mountcastle.
However, the 21-year-old always has found a comfort zone in the batter’s box, and 2018 brought more of the same. His debut delayed by a hairline fracture in his right hand, Mountcastle knocked off the rust in a hurry and batted .297/.341/.464 with 13 home runs, 19 doubles and four triples in 102 games at Double-A Bowie.
What has enabled him to really flourish?
"I think his plate discipline and his pitch recognition,” farm director Brian Graham said. "He missed the first six weeks, too, but he hit for power, he hit for average and, most importantly, he’s doing a better job of recognizing pitches.”
Mountcastle has moved from shortstop to third base and eventually could be planted at first, but he continues to receive instruction at the hot corner. "It’s a work in progress, and he continues to make strides,” Graham said.
Bowie lefthander Keegan Akin vied for the pitching equivalent of the triple crown in the Eastern League by going 14-7, 3.27 with 142 strikeouts in 137.2 innings.
The 2016 second-rounder out of Western Michigan stayed healthy after the Orioles shut him down last August with a strained oblique muscle, and the 23-year-old took a huge step forward in his development.
"What Akin did this year was pretty special at the Double-A level,” Graham said. "The strides he made were commanding his fastball and being able to throw his offspeed stuff behind in the count for strikes.
"Last year he pitched 100 innings during the season and I think 16 more in the (Arizona) Fall League. He’s going to get up to 130 innings this year, which for a starting pitcher is a good, solid year in the minor leagues.”
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Shortstop Adam Hall, a second-round pick in 2017 out of high school in London, Ontario, has shown improvement across the board despite receiving minimal attention in the low minors.
The 19-year-old righthanded batter recorded a 19-game hitting streak at short-season Aberdeen in August, and it says plenty about his season that it’s only part of his story instead of the dominant narrative.
"Adam Hall has really done a nice job,” Graham said. "He’s made great strides defensively and offensively. He’s 19 years old and his defense has improved immensely. His throwing, ability to play shortstop, his offensive approach, his ability to steal bases.
"I know he was a high draft pick, but the strides he made this year were really good.”
Hall hit .307/.378/.398 with one home run and 23 stolen bases in 64 New York-Penn League games.