Trey Mancini is on fire. The 25-year-old leads a star-studded Orioles roster in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs and RBI despite taking part in only seven of the team’s 12 games.
Two weeks into the season, Mancini is certainly at the head of the Rookie of the Year discussion but, without a true position to play, it may prove difficult to get the slugger into the everyday lineup for Baltimore manager Buck Showalter.
As the end of this past Spring Training drew near, the idea that Mancini may miss out on the big league roster altogether and be asked to stick it out in Triple-A Norfolk for a few more months wasn’t so crazy. He had put together an impressive pre-season (.333/.379/.600 with three home runs and 14 RBI,) but the re-signing of Mark Trumbo in the winter had blocked Mancini’s best chance at playing time, full-time designated hitter.
Questions on defense
Defensively, Mancini had largely been viewed as an average first baseman during his time in the Orioles farm system. Not that it really matters, though, as that’s Chris Davis’s position and he is set to be in an Orioles uniform until the end of the 2022 season.
With obvious holes in the O’s outfield, Mancini was given a few innings in the grass down in Florida this spring, marking his first competitive game in the outfield since 2011, when he was a rising college sophomore. Long story short, due to veterans blocking him in certain places and his lack of experience in others, it wasn’t quite clear where Mancini fit on the team.
Whether it was because the Orioles could afford to carry extra hitters early on, or because Showalter felt he would genuinely be a valuable piece of the team, Mancini made the big league squad out of spring training. Since then, he has been used as a pinch hitter, right fielder, left fielder, designated hitter and a first baseman. He’s a straight up utility-man that can actually hit.
Surprisingly, his work with the leather has been perfectly adequate. The sample sizes are too small to gather any meaningful data, but let’s think back. As a left fielder in Fenway, Mancini did well with balls off the Green Monster.
Over the weekend in Toronto, he made a nice reaction catch that led to an unassisted double play over at first base. And he is without an error in 15 chances overall. Sure, it’s far from Gold Glove-worthy, and he does look a tad slow but he isn’t embarrassing himself out there either.
It addition to bucking the idea that he is a one-position player, Mancini has also shown that he can do more than just crush left-handed pitching.
As a September call-up in 2016, Mancini had 14 total at-bats, 10 against lefties and four against righties. Against left-handed pitchers, Mancini had four hits, including three home runs. With righties, he had just the one single. This was after a minor league career where he routinely hit southpaws at least 10-20 points higher, sometimes much more, than same-sided hurlers.
While the rookie has continued to see most of his time against left-handers, he has actually had more success in 2017 against righties. So far, he is 5-for-15 with a home run and a double against lefties and 3-for-7 with three dongs when facing righties.
The power numbers that Mancini is producing are ridiculously unsustainable, of course. He currently boasts a home run-to-fly ball rate of 66.7 percent, has no infield fly balls yet, only a 12.5 percent line drive rate and a .591 ISO. The home runs will slow down, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will stop hitting well.
Mancini’s .333 batting average on balls in play seems high, but it’s only a touch higher than the .324 number that ZiPS came up with for 2017 and the .326 that is predicted by Steamer for the entire season. It actually makes sense given just how hard the man hits a baseball.
Last Wednesday’s laser beam homer against Boston was pegged at 116 mph off the bat, tied for the hardest hit round-tripper of the season. The three-run shot he had on Sunday in Toronto registered at 110.5 mph, also one of the top-30 dongs of the year.
The O’s on the senior circuit
As good as Mancini has been, it may be wise to ignore how much he is used during the road trip to Cincinnati. On Tuesday and Thursday, the Reds plan to have a right-handed starter, which likely means a start for Hyun Soo Kim or Seth Smith in left and Trumbo in right. On Wednesday, there is a lefty on the mound, but will Showalter be comfortable with both Mancini and Trumbo in the field at the same time, or will defensive specialist Craig Gentry get a game? For the sake of Adam Jones’ legs, let’s hope so.
Without a doubt, Mancini should still get into each game, though. The Orioles starters are unlikely to go too deep and none of them are comfortable at the plate, which means plenty of pinch hitting opportunities. In his brief career, Mancini is 1-for-2 in pinch hitting appearances.
A major league roster is an ever-evolving beast, where players come and go. As it stands now, the Orioles have 13 hitters and 12 pitchers with three well-known players on the mend. The one that really matters to the future of Mancini is outfielder Joey Rickard.
Rickard is coming back from a sprained finger and is eligible to come off of the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. All reports indicate that he will indeed return from the DL on that day. Both Mancini and Rickard have minor league options remaining.
Rickard was DL-ed on the same day that Wade Miley returned from “injury”. The sprain afforded the Orioles an extra week and a half before they needed to make any drastic changes to the roster, but the day of reckoning would seem to be looming.
Back when Rickard got hurt, Showalter said “I have a pretty good idea of what we would have done, but it wouldn’t involve Joey. That’s for sure.” So, who would it have been?
Thanks to his performance since that roster move, Mancini certainly doesn’t deserve for it to be him. But the Orioles decision-makers always have a trick of some kind up their sleeve.
What should Trey Mancini’s role be on the 2017 Orioles?
This poll is closed
Everyday player regardless of the opposing pitcher
Platoon and play only against left-handed starters
Bench piece to use as a pinch hitter
Send him to the minors for now