First baseman Trey Mancini wasn't ranked among the Orioles' top prospects before this season, but there's no question he is now following a breakout 2015 season.
For his efforts, Mancini was awarded the club's annual Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award.
Mancini, the Orioles' eighth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2013, hit .341/.375/.563 with 21 homers and 89 RBIs with High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie this season. He made the jump to Double-A look easy, hitting .359/.395/.586 with 13 homers and 57 RBIs in 84 games with the Baysox.
"Early on, I got challenged with fastballs a lot and I think it was because people really didn't know who I was at the Double-A level," Mancini said. "I knew they would change the way they pitched to me after that and I had to adjust accordingly. They started throwing first-pitch breaking balls, I would sit on it sometimes and not really miss the pitches they would make. They left some pitches up in the zone and I tried to take advantage of those, too."
Mancini was awarded the Eastern League batting title despite not recording enough at-bats to qualify. According to Rule 9.22(a), a hitter who does not have enough at bats to qualify is allowed to tack on the number of hitless at-bats to qualify — in this case, 0-for-29. Mancini's adjusted .330 batting average was still better than the .324 posted by Altoona's Adam Frazier.
Mancini said the biggest stride he made this year was mental, but he also changed to a straight-up stance, allowing him to see the ball better, after a suggestion from vice president of baseball operations Brady Anderson during spring training.
"I was lower and more flexed on my legs before," Mancini said. "Now, I'm just standing straight up. I feel really, really relaxed with that approach and I'm hitting the ball out in front, getting some better trajectory on it. So that helped me out a lot, too. … I always knew that I had the talent that I maybe displayed this year and didn't reach that totally, especially from a power standpoint. That really started to come together this year. I think a lot of that came from [the] change of stance."
Asked whether he could play in the majors in 2016 — first basemen Chris Davis and Steve Pearce are free agents — Mancini said it's a "realistic possibility."
"I'm going to work very hard this offseason to try to make it one," Mancini said.
Sharing the Palmer Prize
Relievers Oliver Drake and Mychal Givens became the first tandem, and only second in club history, to share the Jim Palmer Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award since Garrett Stephenson and Armando Benitez in 1993.
While introducing the pitchers at a news conference Saturday, executive vice president Dan Duquette said he felt that both pitchers, who debuted in the majors this season and are currently with the Orioles, earned the distinction.
"These guys had great years and they both deserve to be honored for the work that they did to get here," Duquette said. "Oliver had a chance to sign with another club and we're thankful he signed back with us, and Mychal, with the job change if you will, and getting to the big leagues quickly. … Just phenomenal results. They both deserve to be congratulated."
Drake, 28, overcame shoulder surgery to work his way back onto the Orioles' radar with a 0.82 ERA in 44 innings with Triple-A Norfolk. Givens, 25, made the transition from shortstop to pitcher three seasons ago and posted a 1.73 ERA in 35 games at Bowie.
"I had a setback with shoulder surgery and it's a tough thing to go through both mentally and physically," Drake said. "And this is just kind of the reward for all the hard work that I had to go through to come back from that."
Drake and Givens have both pitched well since their recalls to the majors and could be a big part of the bullpen in 2016.
"Going through bumps and bruises of being an infielder and then when I got the opportunity to be a pitcher, I just took that accomplishment [as] a new goal," Givens said. "And I'm going out there and soaking up all the information I can."
Glynn Davis embraces charity work
Bowie outfielder Glynn Davis, who is from Pasadena and went to the Community College of Baltimore County, Catonsville, said he believed it's his duty as a professional ballplayer to help out his community. And it makes it even better that that community is where he has lived much of his life.
"As soon as I walked in, she started crying," he said. "So just the effect that I have on a young child, for me to go in there and make her day, make her spirits rise a little bit, it definitely was special for me."
Coaches without contracts
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked specifically Saturday whether he thought all of his coaches would return in 2016, something that hasn't happened from one season to the next in his tenure.
All are currently without contracts for next season and Showalter has said repeatedly that he wants them back. But he seemed a little less certain Saturday.
"You'd like to see them return intact, but we'll see what the game has in store," Showalter said. "We know [there's] a window there. Another part of the puzzle we have to solve in the offseason."
Around the horn
Showalter said second baseman Jonathan Schoop was scheduled to get another X-ray on his bruised right hand. Schoop didn't start in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader. Schoop is also scheduled to get an MRA on his right knee because had some recent swelling there, but it isn't deemed serious. Schoop missed 2½ months with a right knee injury this season. … Catcher Matt Wieters was 1-for-1 with four walks in Game 1 on Saturday, extending his hitting streak to seven games. He became the first Oriole to walk four times in a game since Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds on May 6, 2012, the 17-inning game in Boston in which Chris Davis was the winning pitcher. … Givens has 16 strikeouts over his past seven appearances, posting a 0.90 ERA over that span. It was his 13th multiple-strikeout game in 22 appearances this season.