Right-right first basemen get a bum rap around baseball, typically drawing the “tweener” label. To make it to the big leagues, a right-handed first baseman must hit, and hit, and hit some more. It’s easy to fall through the cracks given the dominance of left-handed sluggers manning the first base bag in the Majors.
This year, Trey Mancini, a right-right first baseman, has hit, and hit, and hit some more. The Baltimore Orioles’ eighth round pick out of Notre Dame in 2013 has posted a .364/.396/.579 slash line in 62 games since being promoted from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie. He offensive output at Frederick wasn’t anything to sneeze at either. With the Keys, Mancini ran up a .314/.341/.527 line. Put it all together, and you get an impressive .341/.371/.555 line with 36 doubles, five triples, 17 home runs, and 76 RBI’s. On the year, the 6’4″ Mancini has collected one four-hit game, 14 three-hit games, and 34 two-hit games.
In 114 games played this year, the Winter Haven, Florida native has hit safely multiple times in nearly half of them. There have been only 25 games this season in which Mancini did not record a hit. At one point this season, he recorded a hit in eight consecutive at-bats.
“I pretty much go up to the plate every time with my main goal being to hit the ball hard,” Mancini said, “You can’t really control where it goes too much. You can’t think about too much.”
After posting relatively modest power numbers the first two seasons of his minor league career — .449 SLG in 2013 and .409 SLG in 2014 — a couple of minor adjustments have allowed Mancini to begin tapping into the power potential of his 6’4″ frame.
“Everybody told me the last thing that comes for hitters is power,” he said. “I actually changed my stance slightly in Spring Training this year. I used to be a little wider and more down on my legs. Now I’m focusing on staying more straight up, which has helped me with my weight transfer and hitting the ball more out in front. It’s allowed me to get a better trajectory on the ball on a more consistent basis.”
Already blessed with good bat speed and quick wrists, the change to a more upright stance has helped Mancini cut some length off his swing allowing him to get the barrel of the bat on more pitches. Standing tall in the box, Mancini looks very relaxed and loose. He can hit the ball to all fields, and sprays line drives with consistency.
Mancini’s approach at the plate can only be described as aggressive. He has not drawn many walks — 23 this year and only 71 his entire career — but does not chase pitches or strike out frequently. Mancini knows what he’s looking for when he steps into the box.
“If you get a fastball early in the count, there’s no use in taking it. I know a lot of people are big on getting deep into counts, but if you get a pitch early on that you like, I don’t see any reason not to take a swing at it. Most of the time, you get one good pitch to hit every at-bat. If you get it the first pitch, put a good swing on it.”
The Orioles drafted Mancini out of Notre Dame, where he batted .389 his junior year. The backbone of a solid organizations is built on polished college hitters with a mature approach to hitting. Just look at the St. Louis Cardinals.
“You get great coaching in college, and you have to be good at situational hitting. You have to be good in all areas of hitting. It molds you as a player and helps you focus on winning. If you’re focused on winning, your individual results take care of themselves in the end.”
Mancini entered professional baseball with a good approach to hitting, and it has paid off every season. There has been only one stop in Mancini’s climb through the minor leagues in which he did not hit .300 — last year at Frederick — but that bump in the road helped to pave the way for this year’s breakout.
“I didn’t necessarily hit the ball much worse there,” Mancini explained, “but I still didn’t hit the ball as well as I have at all the other levels. Mentally I was just getting in my own head a little bit. In the offseason, I made a decision to be stronger overall and forget about bad at-bats.”
Mancini understands the difficulties right-right first basemen face, but has not allowed it to affect him. He feels comfortable being in an organization like Baltimore where the front office finds a way to get the most out of their players’ abilities.
“After I got drafted, you get that label. I couldn’t be happier to be with the Orioles, though. They had faith in me from the beginning. I did have that label, and I knew I would have to perform right away because of it. The Orioles have done a great job of really exploiting the areas in which I do well. I’ve had the best instruction of my career since being drafted.”
Trey Mancini may not check all of the boxes on a scouting report, but that should not prevent him from reaching the Major Leagues. At 215 pounds, he still has plenty of potential to fill out and develop even more power. In the field, Mancini is a very capable fielder, and will only improve in that department as well. The right-right first baseman label is a difficult one to shake, but there is no arguing with the results Trey Mancini has posted through four professional seasons. The Orioles may have unearthed a real gem in this eighth round pick from Notre Dame.