19 April 2017

Trey Mancini and the Audacity of Small Samples

Trey Mancini is, as of April 18 and through 39 career plate appearances, running a wRC+ of 282. Barry Bonds had a career mark of 173. He has a career wOBA of .539. That slacker Babe Ruth? A mere .513. He has more extra base hits in his career than he does singles. Take that every player ever! If he retired today, he'd leave with a career batting average higher than every player in history not named Ty Cobb (assuming we got rid of minimum plate appearance numbers, but only for Mancini). In short, he's an absolute beast.

Well, ok, maybe those comparisons are a little crazy. Not unlike Mancini's start! He's been about as great as you could ever expect someone to be, especially considering that he was never ranked as a top prospect and is learning to play a new position in the Majors. While he may not end up beating Babe Ruth's career wOBA, he's already done more this season than many would have thought back in November.

So what's driving this early career success? Well, that's a little difficult to discern. Oh, wait, no it's not. 70% of his fly balls have been home runs. He's on pace to destroy every offensive record in baseball history because, of the ten times he has hit the ball in play and in the air, seven of them have been home runs. This is both amazing and utterly, ridiculously unsustainable.

Of course, we all know that, or at least we should. But it's not like Mancini is only hitting wall scrapers. According to Statcast, he has the tenth hardest hit ball of the year (the rocket he launched against Ben Taylor of the Red Sox), so we know that he has the capability of squaring up Major League pitching. Here's the problem: other than the homers, he isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball. JJ Hardy has a higher average exit velocity than Mancini this season and only 38% of Mancini's balls in play are considered "hard hit." He is hitting line drives at a below average rate and and has hit the ball on the ground 50% of the time. He has also continued his career trend of not walking much and striking out a ton, though this certainly isn't a barrier to playing for the Baltimore Orioles.

What does all this mean? Well, it means that, first and foremost, it's April. Weird things happen in April and September, and those are the only months that Mancini has worn an Orioles uniform in meaningful games. The home run pace will absolutely fall off, and probably very soon, though he has likely quieted at least a few critics who questioned his bat speed and swing earlier in his career. When the homers do inevitably stop coming at such a furious pace, however, it's fair to question exactly what the O's have in Mancini.

Certainly, the team showed confidence in him by bringing him north from Florida and playing him nearly every day in the two weeks of the season, but it's worth noting that the O's didn't exactly seem ready to make a commitment to him as a cornerstone of the team prior to 2017. Despite tearing up the minors and winning the Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year award in 2015, the O's signed both Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo to long term deals, guys who will occupy Mancini's most likely long term defensive positions for the conceivable future. The fact that he has been at least adequate in the outfield has to be encouraging, but it seems hard to believe that this was in the long term plan considering that he didn't play a single game in the outfield in 2016.

Of course, circumstances have a way of changing plans. Mancini's great start should, at the very least, earn him the right to stay with the big league club for the foreseeable future. Even if he's not Ruthian the rest of the way, he could be a major asset to a team that needs one.


Roger said...

Mancini said something in an interview with Melewski (or Melewski quoted it in his blog) about changing his stance and being more upright at some point (a Brady suggestion). If that's true and he does claim he started hitting better with that change then it might invalidate some of the earlier scouting reports. There could be a real possibility he is a better hitter than he used to be. Obviously, not this good but it is fun to watch for now.

Anonymous said...

What's this all mean? It means that signing Trumbo was a 37.5 million dollar mistake. Same production from mancini and alvarez for about 2.5 million! I think Petey wanted him, just like the 161 million dollar man!

Mr. Diggz said...

Is there any way to dangle this guy in a trade for a proven veteran pitcher? The O's really don't need another version of Mark Trumbo; pure power hitter with little fielding ability. Let's get it done quickly, before the magic runs out.

Anonymous said...

Mancini is gold glove caliber compared to trumbo!

Joe Wantz said...

I think teams are probably going to be aware that most of Mancini's great numbers are small sample sizes. That said, if he keeps playing well he could probably have some trade value.