Trey Mancini has put together a monster rooking season batting .297/.348/.518 good for a .866 OPS and a 129 OPS+, meaning his OPS is 29% better than league average after being park and league adjusted.
He has been an unexpected positive to the Orioles all year long and is one of the few players who has performed well throughout the season. Mancini is one of the reasons the Orioles are in a playoff hunt to begin with.
All of this was not to be expected. Mancini was never rated highly on prospect lists. He was only ranked the Orioles fifth best prospect after the 2016 season according to Baseball America. The O’s system wasn’t highly rated. Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels ranked Mancini as the #179th best prospect in baseball. Though, he did write “...Trey Mancini may be too low. We’ll watch [him] closely this spring.”
He was the eighth round pick of the Orioles out of Notre Dame and was only playing first base or DH in the minor leagues, so his pedigree was never all that great. He even struggled in the minors as first between Frederick and Delmarva in 2014 he posted a .735 OPS, not good enough for a college first baseman.
Mancini tore up the Eastern League in 2015 and started doing so again in 2016, when he was moved up to Norfolk. That was another stop where he again did not produce much, but he earned a shot with the Orioles in September and hit three home runs in five games.
Therefore, even after a great spring, there were a lot of legitimate concerns about whether Mancini could truly stick at the major league level. There was a particular concern because he was being asked to play in the outfield for the first time in his career. However, he has remained a model of consistency in his rookie year.
His first five months in 2017 he has posted an OPS+ of 112, 135, 159, 94, 130 in that order. Even his worst month, he was still close to a major league average hitter. Moreover, at home he has an OPS of .865 and on the road it is .867.
One area where Mancini has improved is plate discipline. He struck out 35.8% of the time in March/April, but has struck out below 20% of the time in the last two month. Over the first half, Mancini’s strikeout rate was 26.4%. That has lowered to 19%.
In a similar vein, Mancini’s first half walk rate was 5.7%. In the second half, it has been 6.9%. He is getting better even as the league has had time to adjust to him.
Mancini also has a stellar approach at the plate. Among 64 right handed hitters with at least 450 plate appearances Mancini ranks 15th with with opposite field batted ball rate at 27.2 percent. He is not a one dimensional hitter. It also happens to be that he has a 1.363 OPS on balls hit to the opposite field.
The rate of hard-hit balls is another place where Mancini is better than league average. That pairs nicely with his .221 ISO. That’s isolated power, a stat that ranks him 38th among 133 qualified hitters. He is also batting .297 good for 23rd best mark in the major leagues. Hitting for power and average is a great place to start.
Perhaps most surprisingly is Mancini’s ability to hit right-handed pitching. So far he has a .947 OPS against right-handed pitching, but only a .689 OPS against left-handed pitching. As a right-handed hitter, that is very unexpected, especially considering in the minor leagues he he posted a .978 OPS against left handed pitching in 2016 and a 1.142 OPS in 2015. It will be interesting going forward to see if his reverse split stays intact.
There are some reasons for concern. Mancini’s BABIP is above league average at .351 on the season. He did run a BABIP over .400 for two consecutive months.
However, in the last two months that number has gone down, and his production has still remained. He hits the ball all over the field, he hits the ball hard, and he has some decent foot speed so it is somewhat reasonable to expect his BABIP to be slightly above average. Still, a number like .351 feels like luck will even out and it will come down.
Otherwise, it would be nicer if he struck out less and walked more, but there are not many hitters in baseball that you would not say the same for.
Mancini has been one of the few consistent bright spots in an Orioles season that has been up and down. His ability to hit has shown through and now he is one of the most valuable players on an Orioles team that finds itself in the thick of the wild card race. The Orioles will need the same consistent Mancini if they hope to reach the playoffs.