BALTIMORE -- The American League Rookie of the Year Award is a one-horse race after Yankees phenom Aaron Judge, one of three nominees, hit 52 homers in his first big league season. But that doesn't mean that Orioles rookie Trey Mancini -- another finalist, along with the Red Sox's Andrew Benintendi -- didn't have a season worthy of appreciation.
The least heralded of the trio, Mancini could top Benintendi for second place in the Baseball Writers' Asssociation of America award voting, which will be unveiled Monday. But regardless of where Mancini finishes, he was an incredible success story for Baltimore -- a prospect who was never lauded as the next big thing, but who just continued to improve and exceed expectations at every level.
Mancini was an eighth-round pick in the 2013 Draft and wasn't part of the organization's Top 20 prospects in 2014. He ranked as the O's No. 12 prospect at the start of '15 before a monster campaign moved him to No. 5 at the end of the year, per MLBPipeline.com.
In that breakout 2015 season spent between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie, Mancini won the organization's Player of the Year Award after he led the Minors in hits (182), finished third in batting average (.341) and achieved career highs with 21 home runs and 43 doubles.
Mancini continued to play well the following year at Triple-A Norfolk. Then, his strong Spring Training in 2017 led to him making the Orioles' 2017 Opening Day roster. From there, Mancini hit his way into an everyday role, batting 293/.338/.488 with 26 doubles, four triples, 24 home runs and 78 RBIs in 147 games.
Defensively, Mancini's effort was noticeable. After being blocked at first base by Chris Davis, Mancini played the outfield much better than expected. That defense, coupled with his consistent offense, made him one of the O's most reliable players this past season.
Mancini had a 17-game hitting streak from Sept. 11-29, the longest by a rookie in club history and the longest by a first-year player in the Majors this season.
Mancini's 159 hits ranked first among qualified rookies, finishing ahead of Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel (158), Benintendi (155) and Judge (154). He also led rookies with 47 multihit games and was second in batting average, third in slugging percentage, fourth in on-base percentage, fifth in RBIs and tied for seventh in home runs.
In a year without Judge, Mancini would have a strong case for winning the AL Rookie of the Year Award. The only two Orioles with more homers in their rookie season were Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Eddie Murray.