I have to say, it’s very frustrating how few Orioles spring training games are televised.
Over the course of an eight hour work day, sometimes you need to get the blood pumping, and watching Anthony Santander hit spring training doubles is the kind of click-on-the-Outlook-tab-so-as-to-hide-what-I’m-doing-on-my-second-monitor sneakiness that I rather enjoy.
So, with the Orioles playing the Yankees on Wednesday, I played the cat and mouse game of Kermit telling me to get back to my damn work, and Darth Kermit conning me back to Nestor Cortes Jr. The force is strong with Darth Kermit.
In the midst of my cunning, Adam Jones showed he has still has plenty of bat speed, smacking back a fastball on the inner-half for an impressive shot to center field. Jonathan Schoop’s mammoth shot to left field made Buck Showalter laugh like he was being tickled. Spring training games are kind of boring, but stuff still happens.
I never had reason to believe that Trey Mancini’s rookie season, a campaign marked by a 117 wRC+ and a .826 OPS, was ever a fluke. Mancini’s presence always felt different because, despite the swings and misses, he always seemed to be a tough guy to put away. In that same exhibition game, Mancini flashed the same traits he carried throughout nearly the entirety of his darling rookie season.
New York’s Chance Adams had just gotten Mancini to chase a 2-0 fastball down for a lazy fly ball out, an at-bat of three straight fastballs. Adams leads off Mancini’s second plate appearance with a really bad slider, and Mancini misses it. But it was an encouraging miss.
Either Mancini was trying to push the ball to right field for an easy RBI, or he was caught in between a hanging slider. For no particular reason, my gut tells me Mancini was probably aiming for the former, because that’s the kind of guy that he is.
He then gets another fastball towards his hands, and again fouls it off to the right side. The swing was probably both a little bit of wanting to go to right field and just flat-out getting beat, but nevertheless, Mancini was quickly down 0-2.
Adams attacks with a wild slider down and away, which eventually trickles halfway to the Orioles dugout. Tim Beckham pressed his luck and was thrown out after trying to steal home, forcing Mancini to hit with two outs rather than one. But Mancini is a fighter. For a guy that owned a 34.9 percent chase rate and a whiff rate among the likes of Mark Trumbo and Jonathan Schoop, he still manages to do enough around the strike zone.
Much of Mancini’s rookie season was made possible because of his willingness to go to right field. Among the Orioles, only Adam Jones found right field more often than Mancini, and given the 25-year-old’s 37.5 %/35.3 %/27.2 % distribution to left field/center field/right field was emphatically the most balanced of the Orioles regulars. He has a very natural opposite field swing, allowing him to see a 90 mph fastball to its conclusion before fighting off a potential whiff pitch.
Mancini then watches a fastball down and away that wasn’t, but very well could have been called a strike. After a pretty decent pitch sequence, Adams goes back to the slider, aiming for the down and away quadrant. He misses ever so slightly, and Mancini punishes a subtle mistake.
Adams doesn’t make a terrible pitch, but Mancini isn’t like Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis. They’re less equipped and much less capable of staying with a slider or anything offspeed such as this. More often than not, you’ll see the two swing over the top for a swing and miss. Instead, Mancini continues to prove that he is hardly ever out of rhythm with his leg kick, and his hands never stray too far out of the load position. It always seems that the barrel of Mancini’s bat finds the baseball, a trait of his that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Spring training often doesn’t mean much, because it feels just a bit too empty at times. The atmosphere of it is commonly too meaningless. But seeing Trey Mancini carry the same tools of his surprising breakout into a new year, the same advanced tools that good hitters have, makes the covert baseball-watching worth the risk.