Rays Reclamation Projects: Matt Mangini

By Robbie Knopf

Matt Mangini has the look. At 6’4″, 230, he looks everything like a power-hitting third baseman. We’re still waiting.

Mangini was the 52nd overall pick by the Seattle Mariners in the 2007 MLB Draft out of Oklahoma State University. As a junior at Oklahoma State, Mangini posted a .332/.435/.531 line with 17 doubles and 9 homers, and the Mariners thought for sure that more power was bound to come. They signed him for $603,000 and he started his pro career in at Short Season-A before working his way up to High-A. The results were not very impressive as he posted a .252/.353/.395 line with 5 doubles, 2 triples, 4 homers, 17 RBI, and 4 stolen bases. Defensively, he made 8 errors at third base for a bad .873 fielding percentage. His entire game was put into question.

Mangini spent 2008 between High-A and Double-A but the results were even worse. He posted just a .229/.306/.327 line, bad by any standards, with 17 doubles, 8 homers, 50 RBI, and 3 steals in 121 games. He struck out 116 times compared to just 35 walks and his OBP was only above .300 because he was hit by 12 pitches. He did up his fielding percentage to .922 for what it’s worth, but his actions at third base were choppy and he did not move well. It looked like he was becoming a third baseman who couldn’t hit- never a combination you would want. But in 2009, he finally had a breakout of sorts repeating Double-A, posting a .273/.339/.424 line with 18 doubles, 5 triples, 12 homers, 67 RBI, and 10 steals in 13 tries in 124 games. In just 2 fewer plate appearances, Mangini cut down his strikeouts from 116 to 92 while raising his walks slightly from 35 to 38. His defense still wasn’t great (.925 fielding percentage), but his power was beginning to show up.

In 2010, Mangini finally came through with the type of season that the Mariners had been hoping to see for a while. He posted a .313/.352/.521 line with 31 doubles, 4 triples, 18 homers, 63 RBI, and 3 steals in 117 games. He did walk just 26 times compared to 96 strikeouts, but at 24 years old, Mangini was finally hitting for power. Mangini made his big league debut in September of 2010 and went 8 for 41 (.211). But after Mangini missed nearly all of 2011 with quad injuries and hit just 2 home runs, the Mariners had seen enough, releasing Mangini in August. Mangini went unclaimed until the Rays signed him in December.

In spring training for the Rays, Mangini hit .308 (12 for 39) with 5 RBI, but managed just 1 extra-base hit, a double, while playing first and third base. Thus far in 2012 at Triple-A Durham, Mangini has posted a .273/.330/.364 line with 10 doubles, 3 homers, and 21 RBI in 56 games, playing primarily third base. His power still has not shown up, and if it had, he could have had a serious opportunity with Evan Longoria going down. There didn’t need to be a Drew Sutton coming in out of nowhere- it could have been Mangini.

Mangini is still pretty young- he doesn’t turn 27 until December. His career is by no means over. But he has to find his power stroke. The Rays signed Mangini hoping that 2012 would be the year where he finally figures something out at the plate to get consistent power production. Thus far, it has not been. Mangini’s story is still in progress. He still has the ability to turn this around. But the likelihood of that happening is looking increasingly bleak.