With MLB owners continuing to lock out the players as the two sides slowly work toward a new collective bargaining agreement, Orioles officials are barred from specifically discussing players on the team’s 40-man roster.
The Baltimore Sun, of course, faces no such stipulations. Throughout the coming weeks, we’ll take a look at each Oriole, examining their 2021 seasons and what’s ahead for them in 2022, assuming the league and the players’ union eventually come together.
Coming off the best year of his career, Trey Mancini missed the 2020 season undergoing treatment for colon cancer. Much of his 2021 was focused on his return — one that earned him Comeback Player of the Year recognition from both his peers and the league. Although Mancini knows cancer will always be part of his story, he hopes his 2022 is more focused on his talents as a baseball player.
2022 Opening Day age: 30
2021 stats: .255/.326/.432, .758 OPS, 21 home runs, 23.2 K%, 8.3 BB%, 0.6 fWAR
Under team control through: 2022
2021 in review
Number to know: 147. After a year spent undergoing chemotherapy and watching his weight fluctuate, Mancini played in all but 15 of Baltimore’s games. A pitch to his right elbow cost him two games in May. In September, he dealt with an oblique issue and missed eight games, but he refused to allow it to end his season. “Cancer is the only thing that’s put me on the [injured list] in my career,” Mancini said, “and I’d like to keep it that way.”
What was good: In a sterling 2019 in which he earned Most Valuable Oriole honors and was nearly an All-Star, Mancini batted .291/.364/.535; had 9.3% of his plate appearances result in a walk, 5.2% in a home run and 21.1% in a strikeout; and put the ball in play at 95 mph or harder 42.2% of the time. In a span of 83 games — half a season’s worth — from mid-April to late July, Mancini hit .288/.359/.509 with a walk rate of 8.8%, a home run rate of 4.6%, a strikeout rate of 21.4% and a hard-hit rate of 42.3%.
Mancini ended 2021 believing he can be as good or even better than he was before cancer. This stretch provides plenty of proof he’s right.
What wasn’t: The period above ends July 28, when Mancini homered on the night the Orioles honored his late friend Mo Gaba, a teenage superfan who spent his life battling cancer. The next morning, though, Mancini woke up and, as he told The Sun in October, said to himself, “I have [freaking] two more months of this, and I’m tired.”
Over his final 50 games, Mancini hit only two home runs, batting .230 with a .622 OPS while striking out in nearly a quarter of his plate appearances. Considering what he endured, it’s certainly understandable. But with Mancini set to enter free agency after this season, he would be well served to avoid such a prolonged slump in 2022.
Looking ahead to 2022
Likely 2022 role: First baseman/designated hitter and middle-of-the-order hitter
What’s projected: Both Steamer and ZiPS are optimistic about Mancini, projecting him to improve his batting average, on-base and slugging percentages and home run total while cutting down on his strikeouts, though neither system forecasts those marks returning to 2019 levels.
It’s worth noting these projections are from before the Orioles’ plans to alter the left-field dimensions at Camden Yards were announced. Although Mancini, like all hitters, will be impacted, he’s on the low side among right-handed hitters. Only 27% of his career home runs at Oriole Park landed in the impacted area in left, and some of those might have been deep enough to carry over the new fences.
A step forward: One aspect of Mancini’s 2019 season that pleased him the most was how he cut down on his groundball rate. Among players who qualified for the batting title in both 2018 and 2019, he had the largest reduction in groundball percentage across seasons, according to FanGraphs. In 2021, his groundball rate ticked up, and when he did hit the ball in the air, he did so an average of nearly 3 mph softer than he did in 2019, according to Statcast, with the ball traveling nearly 20 fewer feet on average despite similar launch angles. That helps explain why, per Statcast, 11% fewer of his fly balls became home runs in 2021 compared with 2019.
Mancini spent much of last offseason trying to make up for half a year undergoing chemotherapy, preparing for the season while still feeling lingering effects from his treatment. Much like he’s looking forward to normal 2022 season, Mancini could use a normal offseason spent building strength instead of playing catch-up.