When the Eastern League playoffs begin tonight, the Double-A Bowie Baysox hope the hot bat they watched first baseman Trey Mancini sustain for 84 games this year can stay hot for a few more.
Bowie (79-63) plays at Altoona (74-68) tonight in Game 1 of a best-of-five series. Altoona hosts Game 2 tomorrow, and then the series shifts to Bowie for Game 3 Friday and Games 4 and 5 if necessary Saturday and Sunday.
The 23-year-old Mancini was promoted from Single-A Frederick to the Baysox June 5. In 84 Bowie games, he has batted .359 with 29 doubles, three triples, 13 homers and 57 RBIs. He slugged .586 with an OPS of .981.
Between Frederick and Bowie, Mancini has hit a combined .341 with 43 doubles, six triples, 21 home runs and 89 RBIs. He has been named as one of five finalists for USA Today’s minor league Player of the Year.
“He’s been unbelievable,” Bowie manager Gary Kendall said. “Offensively, I’ve seen him hit a good fastball and a good breaking ball. They get him some, but overall this guy has hit everything thrown at him. And he’s done it consistently, day in and day out. And he’s worked very hard at first base.
“Late in the year, he just kept barreling pitches and against some good heaters and sliders. Against guys that would be a challenge at any level to hit. It is just such a professional at-bat that he takes.”
Mancini’s bat just seemed to never slow down. Over his last 15 games of the regular season, he hit. 404. Over the last three games, he went 9-for-13. His year was so impressive that he won the O’s minor league Player of the Month award in three of the season’s five months, getting that honor in May, June and August. Barring a major upset, he is going to be named soon as the O’s minor league Player of the Year and get the Brooks Robinson Award.
“He runs hard and plays the game the right way,” Kendall said. “Just impressed not only with his production, but what he brings as a teammate. He’s a very humble kid. He promotes his teammates and doesn’t talk about himself. He has gotten compliments from other managers in our league that played a long time in the big leagues like Lance Parrish (of Erie). He just brings a lot to the table.”
Bowie is in the playoffs for the sixth time in the club’s 23-year history and for the second time as a division champion, also in 2008. But Bowie is looking for its first-ever playoff series win.
Kendall is rather proud, and should be, of his 79-win team. Bowie’s rotation to start the year included Tim Berry, Elih Villanueva, Parker Bridwell, Branden Kline and Dylan Bundy. They ended the year with a rotation featuring Joe Gunkel, Nick Additon, Chris Lee, Gene Escat and David Hess.
“I’m really excited about winning the division. It can be tough when you have things going on and lose some guys to injuries, which we did have. And we lost guys to promotions, which is a great thing. Guys like Terry Doyle, Elih Villanueva, Mychal Givens and Richard Rodriguez went on to bigger and better things.
“We had quite a transformation from what we started with to what we finished with. We had close to 70 transactions, but our guys persevered. I think we’ve been in first place since late June in a pretty good division. We had to answer the call, and I’m real proud of what our guys and staff have done. It’s been a very, very enjoyable year.
“We’ve had guys that have come up to us from our system and guys that helped this year we got from other organizations due to good scouting from our guys and our development guys.”
Gunkel (10-5, 2.79 ERA) tonight faces Altoona right-hander Chad Kuhl (11-5, 2.48 ERA), who is third in the league in ERA. In Game 2 tomorrow, Bowie will start lefty Nick Additon (3-2, 2.97 ERA) against right-hander Tyler Eppler (0-1, 10.13 ERA).
Left-hander Steven Brault, who was one of the two pitchers the Orioles traded to Pittsburgh for Travis Snider, will face Bowie in this series. Brault is slated to pitch Game 3 at Bowie. He is 9-3 with an ERA of 2.00 in 15 starts. Over his past 10 starts, Brault is 8-0 with an ERA of 0.96.
Bowie went 5-9 against Altoona this season. The Baysox will try to do something the next few days that they have never done - win a playoff series. They are 0-5 in team history. In their most recent playoff appearance in 2012, the Baysox took a 2-0 series lead on Akron, but then lost three straight games. In the other EL playoff series, Binghamton faces Reading.
Orioles minor league Pitchers and Players of the Month in 2015:
April: Mychal Givens and Drew Dosch
May: Donnie Hart and Trey Mancini
June: Terry Doyle and Trey Mancini
July: David Hess and Ryan Mountcastle
August: David Hess and Trey Mancini
Update: It was announced this afternoon that Mancini has won the Eastern League batting title. He is the first Baysox player to win the batting title since Lou Montanez in 2008.
Mancini finished the season batting .359, but he was 29 plate appearances shy of the 383 needed to qualify for the award. Per Rule 9.22(a), Mancini took an 0-for-29 to reach the required number of plate appearances. He then won the batting title hitting .330 and beating out Altoona’s Adam Frazier, who hit .324. The final .330 batting average for Mancini is the third-highest in a single season in franchise history.