Denied the chance to be a first-time All-Star earlier this year, Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini scored some small amount of consolation Friday when he was named the Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole, given to the team’s best player as voted by the local media.
Mancini, 27, has been the team’s most consistent and productive hitter for the entire season, rarely wavering despite often having to carry the offensive burden on his own. He’s responded by entering Friday batting .286 with a career-best .892 OPS and 34 home runs, with a chance to drive in 100 runs. He’s at 93 entering Friday.
“Well-deserved,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s had an amazing year. He’s finishing the year extremely strong, and he’s done everything for us this year. An All-Star type year, a great player and one of the better years for me in the American League. A class guy. Everything you want. Well-deserved.”
“I’m very honored,” Mancini said. “We’ve got so many guys on this team who are deserving, and it’s a great honor. It’s something I definitely don’t take for granted, and I’m very appreciative of. I’m very thankful to be here and receive the award.”
While the Orioles had modest expectations entering this season, the first in what’s expected to be a long-term rebuilding project under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde, Mancini’s role was never in doubt.
To hear him tell it, however, he had plenty to prove entering this season.
Mancini made his major league debut three years ago Friday to bolster the team’s 2016 playoff push, and finished third in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2017. He had a slow start in 2018, but rebounded with a strong second half, and was instantly the most visible Oriole at the beginning of this rebuilding process, because of Mark Trumbo’s injury and Chris Davis’ decline.
“I always knew that I was still the player that I knew I was,” he said. “I think there was some doubt from maybe a lot of people, and rightfully so, as to whether I was more the 2017 or 2018 version of myself. I always knew that it was more the former. I wanted to go out this year and play my hardest and play for the team every night, and I knew if I did that, then on a personal level I’d be happy with myself at the end of the year.”
He responded with a season that’s among the most productive in baseball. Only the Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman and Washington Nationals’ Anthony Rendon — both candidates for Most Valuable Player in their leagues — have at least 34 home runs, 35 doubles and 100 runs scored. His first-half production was among the best of any outfielder in baseball, but he didn’t make the All-Star Game, with Major League Baseball choosing left-hander John Means as the Orioles’ representative instead.
His September, in particular, has been productive. He’s hitting .366 with a 1.067 OPS and 11 extra-base hits in 18 September games entering Friday, and Hyde says that’s a glimpse of what he’s capable of when he’s at his best.
“I think it shows you how driven he is, wanting to finish strong and not cashing in and not sitting on numbers, really trying to have the best year that he can possibly have,” Hyde said. “I think the way he’s swinging the bat right now, you’re not going to do that for a full season, but he’s getting the ball in the air so much more now. When he gets the ball in the air, good things happen. That’s why you’re seeing the homers and the line drives into right-center and down the right field line last night, a couple pull homers in Detroit, where he stays behind the ball and gets the ball up. It’s loud, and it’s usually in the seats."
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Hyde also spoke of Mancini’s growth from a leadership perspective, as his daily routine and the way he carries himself put him in a position to be an example for an increasingly young Orioles team. Mancini spoke admirably of the likes of Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones, the last two winners of this award, in how they produced and led the Orioles. Now, he’s in that position.
Mancini joins a list including Jones (2018), Schoop (2017), Manny Machado (2016) and Davis (2013 and 2015) among notable recent winners of the award. Others receiving votes this season included Hanser Alberto, John Means, Renato Núñez, Anthony Santander and Jonathan Villar.
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
TV: MASN Radio: 105.7 FM
Orioles starter: Asher Wojciechowski (3-8, 5.38 ERA)
Mariners starter: Justus Sheffield (0-1, 5.40 ERA)