It sounded strange to Trey Mancini. He won’t be 27 until next month, and he’s just starting his third full season in the major leagues, but he’s one of the most veteran of this year’s Orioles.
Last July’s purge and the departure of Adam Jones leave eight players from the 2016 team on the 40-man roster. Mancini was one of three players named as a cornerstone by general manager Mike Elias in a November email to season ticket-holders.
Thirteen player on the 40-man roster are older than Mancini and five — Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, Andrew Cashner, Richard Bleier and Alex Cobb — are over 30.
While Davis’ contract runs through 2022, Mancini remains under club control until then. He won’t be eligible for arbitration until a year from now.
Mancini, a political science graduate of Notre Dame, accepts his role as one of the more senior Orioles.
“It’s obviously different,” Mancini said at last Saturday’s FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. “It’s been the same core group here from 2012-2018, so it’s a totally different feel, but it’s actually really exciting.”
Although manager Brandon Hyde has said little about his lineup, Mancini figures to be the regular left fielder while Davis begins the season at first base and Trumbo as the designated hitter.
Mancini could be joined by Cedric Mullins, another player mentioned by Elias as a building block, and perhaps Austin Hays, Joey Rickard, Anthony Santander, DJ Stewart—or someone from outside the organization in the outfield.
“To have a lot of young guys here, it’s going to be an energetic team … and I’m really excited to get started,” he said.
Mancini has been gracious to fans and media members, and he could become a go-to guy for the media, and his younger teammates.
“Life comes at you fast sometimes,” Mancini said. “I’ve played just over two years here, and I’m considered a veteran. You can get thrown into the fire. It’s happened to me before. I’m absolutely ready to take on that role.”
Mancini made an unexpected debut in September 2016 when Steve Pearce suffered a calf injury. He had been in Sarasota working out when he got the call to come to Baltimore.
Mancini homered three times in five games and was on the roster for the 2016 wild-card game.
Mancini was converted from a first baseman to an outfielder the next season — first in right field, then in left — and hit .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBIs. He finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Mancini had an awful start to the 2018 season, hitting .216 at the All-Star break and .276 after it. His power numbers were consistent, 12 homers before and after the break, and 26 RBIs pre-break and 32 in the second half.
Mancini had a .715 OPS, down from .826 his rookie year.
“I’m just kind of sticking to what I did in the second half,” Mancini said. “I think I tried to tinker too much last offseason and change a couple of things up. I probably didn’t need to do that. I just went back to what I know how to do, and I’m still doing that.”
Because only Manny Machado hit consistently in the first half, Mancini believes he was pressing.
“I think we all did that to a degree,” Mancini said. “We kind of got off to a rough start last year and couldn’t really recover from that, unfortunately, and we kind of let it spiral out of control. … Towards the end of the year, I thought we started playing a lot better.”
The son of an OBGYN, who briefly considered medical school, Mancini is in favor of a greater emphasis on analytics.
“It’s just a fact now that analytics are an important part of baseball,” Mancini said. “I’m really looking forward to getting more information in that regard. I feel like that’s what the new regime is really all about. I’m really looking forward to looking at some things and seeing some adjustments I can make personally, and things other guys can do personally to make themselves better.”
As Mancini heads to Sarasota, Fla., for the start of spring training later this month, he realizes that he might be a leader.
“I’ve got to be a little more vocal,” Mancini said. “I know towards the end of last year, a lot of guys were coming up to me, asking what they should do about their 401(k) plan, all that stuff. I just asked people that the year before. I had no idea. I’m trying to study up on that, get more educated as things about the union goes. In kind of those regards, I’m trying to step up to the plate a little bit.”