The Orioles brought first baseman Trey Mancini north with the big league club for Opening Day, convinced to do so by his impressive spring training performance: .333/.379/.600 in 60 at-bats. Finding him regular at-bats will be a challenge, as Mancini is blocked at his best defensive position by Chris Davis at first base and Mark Trumbo holds down the DH spot. Right now it appears that Mancini will provide backup coverage at those positions as well sharing right field with Seth Smith and Trumbo.
Although the roster-jamming holds him down for the moment, Mancini will earn a shot as a regular eventually, in Baltimore or elsewhere. Let’s take a look.
Mancini was an eighth round pick in 2013 from Notre Dame. He hit very well in his pro debut in the ‘13 New York-Penn League (.328/.382/.449), leading to this aggressive comment in the 2014 Baseball Prospect Book:
SLEEPER ALERT! The Orioles drafted Mancini in the eighth round last June from Notre Dame. He was very successful in college but scouts don’t like his defensive tools: he is slow and doesn’t throw or run well enough to play anywhere but first base. He does a good job as a hitter though, blasting New York-Penn League pitching for average and power despite college concerns that he was too much of a pull hitter. If you want to dream, think Paul Goldschmidt as the maximal outcome. Goldschmidt posted a 165 wRC+ in the Pioneer League after being drafted in the eighth round from Texas State in 2009. Mancini was at 151 wRC+ at Aberdeen, but the New York-Penn League is a more difficult environment than the Pioneer League and in context the performances are pretty similar. The scouting reports are fairly similar at the same stage, too: Goldschmidt was also critiqued for poor defense and a tendency to pull the ball too much in college. I am not saying that Mancini will turn into a star slugger like Goldschmidt, but I am saying that Goldy was very similar at the same stage of his career. It is at least plausible that Mancini will exceed expectations and become more than just an organization bat. Grade C.
His 2014 season was fair but nothing special, hitting .284/.326/.409 between Low-A and High-A, certainly nothing Goldschmidt-like. I wrote this entering 2015:
Mancini was drafted in the eighth round from Notre Dame in 2013. I rated him as a Sleeper last year and pointed out some similarities between Mancini and Paul Goldschmidt, also an eighth-round pick from a mid-rank college program, when the latter first got into pro ball. That ended up looking really stupid as Mancini went backwards last year, not forwards as Goldschmidt did in his first full campaign.
However, 2015 was much better, Mancini breaking out with .341/.375/.563 line between High-A and Double-A, mashing 43 doubles and 21 homers. Entering 2016, I wrote this:
Hmmm. . .looks like it wasn’t so stupid after all, just a year early, as Mancini broke out with a monster 2015 season, devastating High-A and Double-A pitching. He is quite different than Goldschmidt in important respects: he doesn’t strike out as often, doesn’t walk as often, and doesn’t have quite as much raw power. They are similar athletes, however, mobile for their size and as Goldschmidt did Mancini has developed into a solid defender at first base through hard work. I am not saying that Mancini will be an MVP-candidate beast like Goldschmidt, but I am saying that he should not be under-estimated and could well develop into an everyday first baseman. And that’s a terrific thing to find in the eighth round. Grade B.
Mancini posted a solid performance in 2016, if not quite at 2015 levels. Here’s what I wrote on the Orioles Top 20 prospects list this winter:
4) Trey Mancini, 1B, Grade B-: Age 24, eighth round pick in 2013 from Notre Dame; hit .282/.357/.458 with 20 homers, 58 walks, 140 strikeouts in 546 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; went 5-for-14 with three homers in the majors; can have issues with contact but hammers mistake pitches and unafraid to work counts to find them; not a bad first baseman but limited to that position; upside: .270ish hitter with 20-25 homers in a full season; downside: contact problems drop him into the .230s with less consistent power. ETA 2017.
Mancini’s 2017 spring performance fits into his career narrative. The objective projection systems are in line with my winter take: Steamer projects him at .271/.323/.435, ZIPS at .263/.314/.436, PECOTA at .266/.316/.452. All are plausible, although personally I think we’ll see the increased Isolated Power projected by PECOTA.
Bottom line: Mancini isn’t Paul Goldschmidt, but he should be a useful player. He’s 25 years old, two or three years away from the classic power peak experienced by many similar players, which could push him into regular status somewhere.