Did a player that has been underrated most of his career finally get some level of recognition Monday evening?
He did. The Orioles’ Trey Mancini was named as a finalist for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. It’s an all AL East final trio with Aaron Judge of New York and Boston’s Andrew Benintendi joining Mancini.
Judge is expected to become the easy winner of the award. But will Mancini get second place over the more heralded Benintendi?
Even that might be tough for a player that never made any top 100 prospects lists. Benintendi however, was ranked No. 15 by Baseball America after the 2015 season and he was the No. 1 prospect in the sport at the end of the 2016 season. Benintendi was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Mancini was the No. 249 overall pick and that was in round eight of 2013.
Benintendi signed for a bonus of $3.6 million. Mancini signed for a slot bonus of $151,900 out of Notre Dame in the summer of 2013.
None of this should have mattered to the voters for this specific award, of course. It was only about how the players did as rookies this past season. In many stat categories, Mancini had an edge on Benintendi. Mancini’s slash line was .293/.338/.488 with an OPS of .826. He produced 2.8 Wins Above Replacement per Baseball-Reference.com. Benintendi’s slash line was .271/.352/.424 with an OPS of .776 and 2.9 WAR.
Benintendi seemed to be a clutch player and hit .351 with runners in scoring position. That was impressive. But Mancini was right there with him at .340 with RISP. Mancini showed the ability to hit both left- and right-handed pitching, batting .293 against both. The lefty-hitting Benintendi batted .232 versus lefty pitchers and .280 against right-handers.
Mancini’s OPS of .826 ranked 26th in the AL and Benintendi was 47th at .776. Mancini’s OPS plus is 120 and Benintendi is at 103.
Mancini just could never get much recognition during his minor league career on prospects lists, even as he was posting impressive stats. Mancini was promoted to Double-A Bowie during the 2015 season in June and hit .359 for the Baysox in 84 games. But he was 29 plate appearances shy of qualifying for the league batting title. A league rule allowed Mancini to take an 0-for-29 to add enough plate appearances to qualify. His adjusted .330 average won the battle title. So he could take an 0-for-29 and still lead all league hitters.
After that performance, Mancini barely made the Eastern League’s top 20 best prospects lists from Baseball America. He was No. 18. Judge was No. 15.
By the way, while Judge will run away with the AL rookie award, he doesn’t run away from Mancini in a comparison of their minor league numbers. Mancini’s career minor league slash line is .306/.357/.472 with an OPS of .829. Judge is at .278/.373/.473 with an OPS of .845.
Where Mancini finishes in the final rookie voting won’t impact much in the long run. But we know he won’t finish ahead of Judge. Can he top the more heralded Benintendi in the final vote?
Either way, the guy who could never get much attention as a prospect will finish among the American League’s three best rookies for 2017.