I do not believe that a single sports fan in America does not love the comeback story. No matter what team you support, it’s hard not to cheer for athletes who have overcome an immense amount of adversity.
In Major League Baseball in 2021, there is no better narrative headlining Spring Training than Trey Mancini’s return. Mancini beat colon cancer last year and is now making his return to the diamond this season. The outfielder is my early pick to win MLB Comeback Player of the Year in 2021.
The Baltimore Orioles drafted Trey Mancini in the 8th round of the 2013 MLB Draft. The outfielder out of the University of Notre Dame had all the tools to become a successful player at the big-league level. Mancini has not disappointed thus far in the Orioles’ organization.
Mancini made it to the show after serving three years in the minors. His first full season in Baltimore occurred in 2017 as a 25-year-old. Mancini finished third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting following his breakout campaign.Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs Mercer Bears at Buck O’Neil Complex on February 16, 2013 in Sarasota, Florida. (Mike Janes/Four Seam Images)
In 2017, Mancini hit .293 with 24 home runs and 78 RBIs. Mancini had a down year in 2018 after his excellent rookie season, but he still went yard 24 times. In 2019, Mancini burst back onto the MLB stage with authority.
Mancini hit .291 with 35 home runs in 2019. Two years ago, he became “the guy” in Baltimore, but following the season, Mancini would encounter a tremendous amount of adversity.
Professional baseball players that excel in the show need to be great athletes. There is no debating this statement, yet big leaguers also need to have an elite mindset. Slumps are inevitable, and professional baseball players need to find a way to overcome the game’s unescapable obstacles.
Mancini was dealt a curveball off the field leading into the 2020 season that he was not expecting. However, he sat back adjusted as if he was standing in the batter’s box inside Oriole Park.
Mancini was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer in March, which caused him to miss the entire 2020 season. He immediately started treatment and ended up beating cancer. For the first time in the fall of 2020, Mancini’s blood work revealed that the tumor was gone.
Less than one year after Mancini’s diagnosis, he is back at Orioles’ Spring Training in preparation for another dominant campaign.
Mancini is Poised for a Big Year
It would be understandable if Mancini wanted to ease back into the swing of professional baseball. However, the easy road is not in Mancini’s DNA. At the start of Spring Training, reporters questioned Mancini on how he feels back in an Orioles’ uniform competing on the professional stage.
Mancini replied, “From every standpoint of the game, I feel just like I did before.” He went on to discuss how thankful he is to have another shot at living his dream.
The outfielder stated, “I made sure to enjoy it and kind of cherish today because there were times, especially when I got diagnosed early on, where I wasn’t totally sure if I’d be playing baseball again.”
Mancini revealed that he was working out five days per week in the offseason to perform when he gets his chance in camp. Mancini is projected to be in the DH spot for the Orioles on Opening Day.
I guarantee he will work his way back into the outfield at some point, but I expect the Orioles to be conservative with his return to the field. However, Mancini will perform this season and be a key factor for the Orioles.
Mancini is projected to hit .270 with 23 homers in 2021. It will not surprise me if his numbers exceed these numbers at the end of the year. The Orioles will have a tough time winning in the American League East with the Yankees and Rays headlining the division.
Nevertheless, Mancini will produce for the Orioles because of his superior talent. It may take a few at-bats to adjust, but do not be surprised if Mancini wins MLB Comeback Player of the Year in 2021.
Putting the postseason accolades aside, Mancini’s journey back to professional baseball is nothing short of remarkable. I am already getting chills thinking about the standing ovation that Mancini will receive on Opening Day in Camden Yards.
Baltimore will be on the road for the first six games of the season. The team’s home opener is scheduled for Thursday, April 8th at 3:05 against the Red Sox.