clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Trey Mancini in left field experiment is working out for the Orioles

New, comments

Despite being a first baseman his entire career, Trey Mancini has done a perfectly average job in left field. And that’s perfectly fine.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles Michael Owens-USA TODAY Sports

Despite being named the organization’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2015 and slugging three home runs in his brief big league stint to end 2016, Trey Mancini came into Spring Training in 2017 as a man without a spot. With Mark Trumbo and Chris Davis fully entrenched in the lineup, it looked like Mancini would probably have to wait his turn. But then, Trey started hitting.

Proving that his end to 2016 was no fluke, Mancini went into Spring Training in 2017 and tore the cover off the ball. After slashing .333/.379/.600, he forced his way onto the Orioles’ Opening Day roster. And after batting .364/.417/.955 through his first six starts, Mancini became a permanent fixture in the daily lineup. The Orioles had to find some place to put Mancini and with his arm strength lacking, he was pigeonholed into left field.

Background

The Orioles saw this logjam at first base coming way back in Spring Training in 2016. Chris Davis had just been locked up in the off-season and the O’s had both Christian Walker and Trey Mancini rising through the prospect ranks. At the time, the O’s chose Christian Walker for the outfield experiment and sent him down to Norfolk to play left field every day while Mancini stayed at first base in Bowie.

As it turn out, Mancini was seen as the less athletic of the two for an outfield transition. With a potential DH spot opening up on the Orioles in the 2016 off-season, the Orioles were fine with his potential in a 1B/DH role going forward.

That door was shut quickly when the Orioles re-signed Mark Trumbo last winter. And unlike Walker, who spent 2016 learning how to play the outfield in Norfolk, Mancini has been learning it on the fly in the big leagues. And given most everyone’s expectations, it’s gone pretty well.

Mancini the left fielder

Mancini has had his fair share of miscues to go along with his learning curve, but he’s also provided some highlights. Considering the plays he’s been making in the outfield as a first basemen, he’s had some spectacular moments.

Check out this incredible grab to save the game last Friday against the Jays.

Off the bat, that was a Steve Pearce double to every single person in attendance, myself included. Thank god Mancini is 6’4”. I’m not sure even Rickard would have been able to reach that ball.

Trey added another sliding grab on Tuesday night, which prompted this tweet from Eduardo Encina at The Baltimore Sun.

Ignoring the irony of Encina himself tweeting about Mancini’s catch, he’s not wrong. Mancini has been passing the eye test in left field for weeks now. Maybe it’s because we are comparing him to Seth Smith, Hyun Soo Kim, and the lead-footed Mark Trumbo, but still. The advanced stats seem to back it up as well.

Trey Mancini currently sits with a range factor per nine innings of 2.05. Compared to all outfielders, it’s below the league average of 2.17, but that value also includes all center fielders. When isolating solely left fielders, there is not nearly as much competition. Among AL players who have logged over 400 innings in left this year, Mancini’s range factor per nine innings ranks 6th out of 17. He’s ahead of guys such as Andrew Benintendi, Brett Gardner, and Nori Aoki. Not too bad for a first baseman.

In defensive runs saved, Fangraphs has Mancini at +2. Nothing special, but once again, he rates above average after over 500 innings in the outfield. The only major metric in which he rates poorly is UZR, mainly because he is severely docked for his arm, or lack thereof. It’s a fair criticism, but considering how variable defensive stats can be, Mancini still has time for improvement in future seasons. In the meantime, his arm certainly looked good enough on this double play.

Average is perfectly fine

Mancini definitely has some room for improvement in the outfield, but for a guy that learned the position on the fly in the major leagues, he’s done quite well. Even as an average left fielder, he has already looked far more serviceable than Mark Trumbo and probably more fleet-footed than Seth Smith as well.

Considering the $26 million the Orioles have already devoted to Trumbo through 2019, Mancini looks to be stuck in left field for the time being. Going forward, the number one thing to remember is that Trey Mancini doesn’t need to be Jayson Heyward with the glove. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great, but beggars can’t be choosers. With Trey’s bat in the lineup, he only needs to be passable out there. So far he’s been just that, and that’s good enough.