By Michael Klopman
Baltimore has a new bat contributing to its big home run totals: phenom Trey Mancini, who has already hit seven homers dating back to September of last season when Mancini made his Major League debut. He's now only the third player since 1913 to hit seven dingers in his first 12 games.
So far in 2017, despite not playing in four of Baltimore's 11 games, Mancini leads the team in home runs (four) and RBIs (nine) while posting a slash line of .364/.417/.955 and an OPS+ of 267.
All of that is great news for the Orioles. Every team could use more power, even Baltimore (plus that lovely on-base percentage is something the O's have desperately needed). But there's a problem here, albeit a pretty "good problem to have," as Orioles manager Buck Showalter said when a reporter brought up the notion that Mancini is forcing his way into the lineup. Mancini happens to be a first baseman, but that's Chris Davis' primary position. The 25-year-old could be Baltimore's designated hitter, but that's where Mark Trumbo is usually slotted. The O's also have a bunch of outfielders not named Adam Jones -- Hyun Soo Kim, Seth Smith, Craig Gentry, Joey Rickard (currently on the DL) and possibly Michael Bourn, if he can make the Major League roster once he returns from a broken finger -- to man left field and right.
"We're going to need all of them," Showalter continued.
Smith has a slash line of .280/.357/.640 with a 170 OPS+ in eight games. Kim is batting .294, but isn't playing nearly as much as one would think considering he had an OBP nearly 40 points higher than Manny Machado's in 2016. As Matt Kremnitzer of Camden Depot put it last week, platooning Kim just feels like a "poor use of resources." And then there's Gentry and Rickard, who haven't been particularly good hitters, but are solid defensively.
Mancini has played a fair share of innings in both corner-outfield positions and has been fine. But the Orioles are about to play their first interleague series of the year this week against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park. Presumably, Buck will make sure Trumbo is in the lineup, likely placing him in the outfield -- but what about the rest? Will Buck put Kim out there if the O's are facing a right-handed pitcher? Or Smith? Could Buck choose the hot bat and go with Mancini?
It's just one series, and with general manager Dan Duquette and Showalter's strong tendency for roster tinkering, there's plenty that could change throughout the season. Some of those outfielders could get hurt -- Rickard and Bourn have already suffered injuries -- or traded. Mancini's bat, or someone else's, could simply go quiet.
For now, though, it seems like Buck has a lot of juggling to do with the possibility of leaving some solid offensive production on the bench -- not that he's complaining about it.
Michael Klopman is an associate producer for Sports on Earth.