On Sunday, the Orioles will reach the halfway mark of the 2017 MLB season, and it’s likely they’ll do so with a record below .500 – the first time this has occurred since 2011.
Despite being just a few games out of the playoff race in an ultra-competitive American League, even the most one-eyed fan knows that this team hasn’t been playing anywhere near well enough, nor does it have the rotation strength required, to make a genuine push for the pennant this year.
Will they sell? They should, but knowing Dan Duquette they probably won’t. This in turn could set the organization back years by not securing the young talent up for grabs should they decide to offload over the next month.
Despite the doom and gloom, one shining light in particular this season has continued to be young Trey Mancini, who has now become one of the more consistent hitters on the team, if not the most.
Everyone remembers the power on display throughout April, where he blasted five home runs in just 51 at bats. However a batting average of just .216, coupled with 19 strikeouts (37%), highlighted a lack of consistency and discipline at the plate – probably due to the irregular playing time being seen by the 25-year-old. His form throughout the first week of May though, where he went 10-for-16 as the Orioles surged, was enough to see him solidify his spot in the lineup and from there, we’ve witnessed the consistency he displayed in the minor leagues since 2013, where he hit .306 in just over 2,000 plate appearances.
While the amount of balls leaving the yard slowed, he finished May with a much-improved .346/.398/.479 slash and struck out just 18 times (25%) in 73 at bats. Importantly, he was using all parts of the field, with 61.5% of batted balls heading up the middle or going the opposite way. In April, he was pulling the ball 5.2% more often. Further highlighting his improvement was the 26.3% of line drives struck, far greater than the 12.5% seen during April. His approach at the plate was working and the results were speaking for themselves.
Throughout the month of June those percentages have shifted back slightly, closer to what they were in April, however he’s hitting the ball harder than he has all season, with 41.8% of batted balls being struck hard, compared to 33.3% and 34.4% in April and May respectively. With two games remaining this month, he owns a sizzling .366/.404/.677 slash through 93 at bats, and has seven home runs, six doubles, and a triple. His 19 RBIs are second only to Jonathan Schoop’s 24.
The numbers he’s put up these past two months justify claims that the Orioles have a star in the making in Mancini, and no longer can his success simply be put down to riding a hot streak. Opposing pitchers have made adjustments, yet pleasingly, this hasn’t affected his production. Throughout his minor league career Mancini proved himself to be a professional hitter, despite the lack of fanfare and what the scouting reports may have indicated. He’s continued this success in the major leagues and is quickly proving himself to be a far more valuable player than many predicted he would become, when picked in the eighth round of the 2013 MLB Draft.