First baseman Trey Mancini got off to a slow start at Single-A Frederick this year. When April came to a close, he was batting just .244. But Mancini’s bat took off in May and he has stayed hot this month, as well. He was playing so well that the Orioles moved him up to Double-A Bowie on June 5 and he has continued to hit well in his first few weeks in the Eastern League.
After posting an OPS of .868 in 52 games with Frederick, Mancini has an OPS of 1.112 in his first 15 games for Bowie. He homered yesterday for the Baysox and went 6-for-10 in Bowie’s weekend series with Trenton.
The Orioles drafted Mancini in the eighth round after his junior year at Notre Dame in 2013, and he was ranked as the club’s No. 30 prospect by Baseball America after last season.
When his bat took off in May, it really took off. He was the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Month. Over 29 games with Frederick, he hit .362 with eight doubles, a triple, five homers, 19 RBIs, a .578 slugging percentage and an OPS of .981. His month was so good he was named Carolina League Player of the Month for May.
For Mancini, the mental part of the game is big. Interview him, as I have a couple of times now, and a picture emerges of a player that puts concepts like mindset and confidence right up there with bat speed and plate discipline.
“Honestly, the biggest part for me through my whole career is the mental part,” Mancini told me recently at Bowie. “I know that old (Yogi Berra) saying that baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical, but it’s true. How confident you are and how quickly you can forget a bad at-bat really dictates how you will do in the future.
“My whole approach this year has been (that) no matter what happens the at-bat before, it is over and done with, good or bad. Then just focus on the next at-bat and don’t look further than that. I’m just trying to take it slowly like that.
“Earlier this year, I was not doing that. Early on, I was struggling pretty bad in Frederick. No way around that. But the coaches there really helped me out, talking about their experiences when they played. You can’t beat yourself up and you have to look forward.”
In 67 games between Frederick and Bowie, the 23-year-old right-handed hitter is batting .327 with 20 doubles, four triples, 11 homers and 44 RBIs.
In his first 15 games with Bowie, he is batting .377 with three homers, 12 RBIs and a .698 slugging percentage.
When I interviewed Mancini at short-season Single-A Aberdeen in August 2013, he told me there was a time in his college career when he would get mad at himself and it would carry over to his next at bat or game. His college coach told him he needed an attitude adjustment and so he quickly made one. It has served him well.
“Sometimes you need to fail in this game to end up succeeding. You look back, reflect on what went wrong and what you need to change. That was important for me. It is nice to see it pay off. You buy into a mindset and to see it pay off like this is rewarding,” he said.
Mancini has been a .300 hitter at every level he’s played at starting with Aberdeen, then on to Single-A Delmarva and Frederick, where he hit .251 last year but .314 this season before he moved up to Double-A. Now he is over .300 in his first few weeks in the Eastern League.
His hit tool has always been a bit ahead of the power tool. But some say power comes later and for Mancini, it has. Over the 2013-14 seasons, he totaled 13 homers in 799 at-bats. This year he has hit 11 in 260 at-bats.
He looks forward to the challenge of showing he can hit at the Double-A level.
“I think it is like every level when you move up,” he said. “The pitchers kind of have a better idea of what they are doing and control their pitches better. You will have to make more adjustments. They have plans for every single hitter as this level, so you try to recognize what they are going to pitch to you and have a plan yourself.”
As for his defense, Mancini said he works hard on that, too, and knows he must.
“It’s coming really well and I feel comfortable out there,” he said. “I know the Orioles wanted me to focus on my defense. I used to be just going a million miles an hour out there, and at first base, you have time over there. Been working specifically on double play balls and having my feet set and trying not to rush things.”
Photo by Patrick Cavey