Just as Greg Wellemeyer did last week with two catching prospects (excellently, I might add), I’m here to offer an in-depth look at a pair of first-base prospects as a companion to Bret Sayre’s controversy-laced dynasty look at the position from yesterday.
Trey Mancini jumped to no. 6 among Orioles prospects on our 2016 list after his breakout 2015 campaign, which saw him finish at Double-A Bowie with an OPS just shy of 1.000. Is the former Notre Dame product a better dynasty asset than Indians slugger Bobby Bradley, who put on a power display rarely seen by a teenager in the Midwest League? Let’s put them both under “The Shredder.” What’s that? Brian Kenny called and said we’re not actually allowed the use “The Shredder,” so we’ll just have to break them down differently, I suppose.
Mancini was a .345 hitter over his three-year career at the University of Notre Dame, and he’s hit for a .315 AVG as a professional in 1442 plate appearances across four levels. His .314 AVG with High-A Frederick to start the 2015 season was second overall in the Carolina League (min. 200 PA), and when he moved up to the Eastern League to finish the year, his .359 AVG in 326 plate appearances was once again good for second in the league and 52 points higher than the next best first baseman, Pirates prospect Josh Bell.
Bradley hit for a .269 AVG in 108 games with Lake County of the Midwest League in his first full professional season. He clubbed his way to a robust .361 AVG at the Arizona complex level in 176 plate appearances after being selected in the third round out of Harrison Central HS in Gulfport, Mississippi, in 2014. Bradley’s .269 mark doesn’t knock your socks off at first blush, but was good for eighth among teenagers in the league.
Mancini has earned just 79 free passes in his three minor-league campaigns—a walk rate of 5.5 percent. Bradley showed a much better eye in 2015, walking in 12 percent of his plate appearances against competition that was usually 2-3 years his senior. Bradley’s .361 OBP was fifth at the position in the MWL.
Bradley’s power earned a 65 grade from the Prospect Team, while Mancini graded out at an average 50 mark. Mancini’s lifetime minor-league home run total of 34 (21 of which came in 2015) as a college bat was nearly dwarfed by Bradley’s prolific output of 27 home runs in only 108 games in 2015–ninth among all minor leaguers. Bradley’s 27 bombs were not only the most in the Midwest League by a wide margin, but nearly doubled the next-best mark by a player under 20 years of age—the 15 hit by Blue Jays prospect Richard Urena (in 384 PA).
This one isn’t close.
Bradley profiles as more of a classic middle-of-the-order thumper, whereas Mancini likely will hit further down the order of a major league lineup. Mancini’s ability to spray the ball to all fields opens the door to the possibility that he could hit in the two-hole, which would put him in a better run scoring position in the lineup than Bradley, but this is an admittedly difficult category to forecast when one of the combatants has less than 600 plate appearances of professional work to go on.
Part of what puts Paul Goldschmidt atop the first base mountain is his ability to add significant value with his wheels. It’s safe to say that neither of these two will ever be confused with Goldy on the basepaths. Mancini has 10 stolen bases over his three minor-league seasons and Bradley swiped just three bases in 2015. If you’re relying upon either of these two to provide value in the stolen base category at the major-league level, you’re in trouble.
Mancini has yet to be given a nickname that has stuck, with SB Nation’s Camden Chat dubbing him the relatively weak “Mashin’ Mancini,” and others paying homage to former lightweight boxing champ, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, whose fight in 1982 forever changed boxing. “Boomer” makes me think of many things: Wells (Multiple), Esiason, and unfortunately, this tired act. Bradley’s love for hunting earned him “The Assassin,” which always engenders visions of a badass–unless it’s preceded with a state not in the contiguous 48. Even Greg Wellemeyer knows, real “Assassins” don’t ply their trade professionally in Turkey. I don’t think we have to worry about this happening with Bradley. Maybe Korea, but not Turkey.
Advantage: “The Assassin”
Mancini has been out of the lineup only a handful of times since turning pro. Bradley missed time at the beginning of the 2015 with an oblique injury that caused him to miss about three weeks in April. It’s hard to hold one injury against anybody, let alone a teenager in his first full professional season, but I guess that’s what has to be done here.
Almost anytime that you’re comparing a college bat that’s reached Double-A with a slugger plucked out of high school who’s played only one full professional season, the former is going to be seen as less risky, as there’s simply more data available on which to judge. That’s the case here as well. Mancini, entering his age-24 season in 2016 has provided us three years worth of college work and two years of full-season minor league action in addition to his 68 games of New York-Penn League duty. While Mancini is decidedly less risky, the soon-to-be 20-year-old Bradley very clearly has the higher upside, due to his plus power potential.
Estimated Time of Impact
Mancini appeared on the cusp of being in the mix for the starting first base job in Baltimore at the beginning of the offseason, but now that Mark Trumbo has been imported and occasional outfielder Chris Davis has been re-signed, it looks as though Mancini will begin 2016 in the minors, but he shouldn’t need too much more minor league seasoning. With Trumbo under contract only until the end of 2016, Mancini could step into the lineup if an injury occurs or Trumbo leaves via free agency at the end of the season. It’s not out of the question that chessmaster Buck Showalter could choose to play Trumbo at designated hitter and deploy Davis in the outfield if Mancini proves ready to contribute at some point in 2016. Bradley figures to need at least two more full seasons in the minors, with three, or possibly four, a likelier scenario.
These really are two different types of first-base prospects at different stages of their careers, but this type of comparison is what makes playing in dynasty leagues fun. Mancini is a fine prospect, but I have questions about whether or not he’ll hit for enough power to be somebody you’d ultimately be comfortable with starting at first base in a dynasty league. As Ben Carsley pointed out yesterday, Mancini could very well be a solid CI option in deeper leagues, and while I agree that it’s a plausible outcome, I do think that’s also probably his ceiling. I caught a brief glimpse of Bradley this season against the Timber Rattlers (on a non-Dora jersey day, thankfully) in the MWL and I was surprised with his ability to handle left-handers at such a young age, and the numbers backed up my initial thought, as he finished the year with a .911 OPS against southpaws. Obviously Bradley is further away, but his power is just too enticing to place him behind Mancini in my mind. Bradley offers an upside of .260-.270 with a solid OBP to go along with legitimate 30-plus home run power. That’s certainly the profile of somebody that you’d be comfortable with starting at first base in a dynasty league—especially if you’re starting somebody like Chris Davis in the outfield.
And the winner is… Bradley.
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