It was an article that stirred up some fans around Birdland. It was an article that also stirred up some of those that work in Birdland, including Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and MASN broadcaster Jim Palmer.
MLBPipeline.com analyst Jim Callis recently ranked the top 30 current rookies in terms of their future potential and who would have the best long-term career. Players were not selected for their Rookie of the Year potential for 2017, but rather future potential. Callis left the Orioles’ Trey Mancini off a list where he ranked 30 players. Yes, it does seem like Mancini could make at least the top 30.
Click here to check out the top 30. It is headed up by Boston’s Andrew Benintendi, who trails Mancini in batting average, homers and OPS.
Any O’s fan could tell you how special a year Mancini has had. Through Thursday’s games, among qualifying American League rookies, Mancini ranked second in batting average (.293), second in slugging percentage (.498), and third in home runs (24), on-base percentage (.338), and RBIs (78). He is expected to be one of the top finishers in the vote for American League Rookie of the Year.
Duquette said he didn’t understand how Mancini didn’t make the top 30.
“I can understand where people didn’t give him credit as an eighth-round draft pick and he didn’t receive a big bonus to sign,” Duquette said. “But he’s been a productive hitter every step of the way in the minors. He won the Eastern League batting title. And this year he is the second-highest rated rookie in the AL based on Wins Above Replacement.
“And what people need to realize is that he is also a pretty good outfielder. He’s a positive on defense in the outfield. He’s not a first baseman playing outfield and barely holding his own. He’s a positive in the outfield based on defensive metrics.
“I think give credit where credit is due. Not sure why people don’t want to recognize him. He’s a good player, a good teammate, an intelligent hitter and a dependable outfielder. He’s an asset in the community for the Orioles organization. What is not to like about Trey Mancini?”
Duquette would not get much argument from Orioles fans on this no doubt. But Callis had his reasons for omitting Mancini and explained them to me during a phone conversation yesterday.
“If we are talking long-term career value, he would be the oldest guy on that list,” Callis said. “I like Trey Mancini and I’ll admit he’s better than I thought he was coming out of the draft.
“But I worry he doesn’t walk much. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is pretty high and I wonder if big league pitchers are going to solve him a little bit more going forward and I don’t think he offers a whole lot of other value. I don’t think he’s a very good defender and he’s probably more of a first baseman, which limits his defensive value. I would take every hitter on that list over him pretty easily.
“I was surprised I got repeated Jim Palmer tweets showing up in my timeline. He was pretty outraged. Maybe some people don’t realize what the list of the article was. I wasn’t saying he wasn’t among the top 30 rookies this year. We are talking long-term value and the only player 25 on that list was Aaron Judge. Everyone else was 22, 23 and some were younger. Right now, I’m not buying he is much of an asset in left field.
“When you rank someone, people take it personally like you hate a player. That is not the case. I talked to Trey at the rookie development program in January. I heard from Trey’s agent and I explained this to him and he bought my explanation.”
My own take would be that Mancini has a few things in his favor in discussing his long-term potential. And his ability to show power to all fields - especially right and right-center - and hit the ball line to line would be near the top of that list. Mancini’s walk rate is indeed just 5.6 percent and that is well below league average of 8.5 percent. But it is not like he is a free swinger and chases a lot of pitches. He has become a solid defender quickly in the outfield and has made impactful plays. He is no liability out there.
Plus, Mancini’s power is not a product of Camden Yards. His slugging percentage is .470 at home and .525 on the road. Most Orioles slug better at home (some considerably better) and that might be one of a few reasons the club is so much better at Oriole Park. But Mancini has shown he can hit to all fields and in all parks.
Does he have the long-term potential to be a good hitter and player? To me, that is an easy yes. But we won’t have that answer for a few years. For now, fans in Birdland and those that work in the Warehouse are big believers in Mancini, in both the present and future. But that is not true everywhere.