Trey Mancini burst onto the major league scene in 2016. In his first five games with the Orioles, he hit three home runs, one double and drove in five runs as the team’s part-time designated hitter. Buck Showalter liked Mancini enough to give him a spot on the team’s Wild Card roster against the Blue Jays. The 24-year-old didn’t get a chance to play in that game, but it was a statement that he was ready for the big time. Since then, however, not too many people are talking about the Notre Dame product.
Instead, the focus has shifted to which veteran slugger the Orioles are going to bring in this winter. A return could be in the cards for Mark Trumbo or Pedro Alvarez. Or maybe they look elsewhere to the likes of Chris Carter and Mike Napoli. Most of the mentions of Mancini have been about how he could platoon with one of these veterans or be a nice piece off the bench. Here’s an idea: let the rookie-to-be have a bigger role.
Mancini is ready for Major League Baseball. There is nothing left for him to prove in the minors. He has a career slash line of .306/.357/.472 down on the farm and has never hit worse than .282 in a calendar year. But he has also consistently been an everyday starter. Making him into a pinch hitter or platoon guy may stunt his growth or render him into a shell of his everyday ability.
Where should he play?
One of the bigger knocks on Mancini may be his defensive inflexibility. He is a first baseman by trade and never done much else in the pros. On an Orioles team that has Chris Davis entrenched at that position for the foreseeable future, that would push Mancini to being a designated hitter-type or learning a corner outfield spot. According to an October blog post from MASN’s Roch Kubatko, the outfield is a viable option for Mancini.
The Orioles have spent the last two seasons without a real right fielder since the exit of Nick Markakis after the 2014 campaign. Gerardo Parra was a flop in 2015. And Trumbo was a nice offensive addition, but atrocious in the field last year. Despite his lack of experience, it seems impossible that Mancini could be any worse out there. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, he is a big dude to be tracking down fly balls. MLB.com rates him as a slightly below average runner, but says he is a bang average fielder and thrower for a first baseman. That is basically in line with Trumbo’s ability. No, that’s not a good thing and don’t be expecting Gold Glove caliber defense out there, but it’s unlikely that he would be a complete disaster either.
Partner in crime
If the O’s do decide to sign a free agent to platoon with Mancini, whether it be at DH or outfield, it makes little sense for it to be a fellow right-handed hitter, or at least not one with the same splits. The rookie has consistently hit better against southpaws and continued to do so with the Orioles as he was 4-for-10 against left-handers and 1-for-4 versus the righties. Carter has even splits, but he also hit only .222 overall in 2016. Napoli hit .262 against left-handers and .229 against righties.
Trumbo would be an interesting case. He was an everyday player for the Orioles in 2016 and is right-handed himself. But he couldn’t hit southpaws a lick as he ended up with a .173 batting average against them as compared to a .284 average with same-sided hurlers. A marriage of Trumbo and Mancini would be perfect from an offensive perspective, but the cost of a potential Trumbo contract could be a tough one to take on if he isn’t expected to be an every day guy.
It’s possible the O’s already have his potential platoon partner in place: Hyun Soo Kim. The former KBO star was 0-for-17 against left-handers last year, but slashed .321/.393/.446 against righties. His performance later in the summer has warranted him a bigger role this coming season, but giving him a platoon parter could maximize his ability. And left field is an easier position than right field, which could hide both Kim and Mancini’s potential defensive deficiencies.
Viewers like you
What do you think Mancini’s role should be in 2016? Can he be an everyday starter? Or should he be in a platoon and/or come off the bench? Does he have the potential to be an everyday starter? He will already be 25 years old when the season starts.