Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's continuing series of stories profiling some of the KC Royals organization's top prospects. Up today is Devin Mann.
The KC Royals traded reliever Ryan Yarbrough to the Dodgers just before last season's trade deadline expired. It was a move many fans expected, but few probably relished — despite going 0-3 with a 6.15 ERA in April and missing most of May and all of June after being struck in the head with a line drive, Yarbrough came back and, with a 3-1, 2.19 ERA record in four July starts, became a trustworthy member of manager Matt Quatraro's rotation.
Then came the Dodger deal, and the new rotation hole it created seemed initially to overshadow the trade's return, a two minor league player package consisting of utility man Devin Mann and outfielder Derlin Figueroa. But once fans scrutinized that package, they found much to like. Figueroa was and remains a promising young prospect and Mann's progression through the Dodger farm system had been impressive.
Indeed, Mann was enjoying an excellent season at LA's Oklahoma City Triple-A affiliate, where in 89 games he'd clubbed 14 homers, driven in 71 runs, and was slashing .307/.402/.541 when he learned he'd been dealt to Kansas City and assigned to Triple-A Omaha.
Mann's change of scenery wasn't for the best. Although he hit six homers for the Storm Chasers, he slumped badly and batted a miserable .199.
But let's not worry about him just yet.
Devin Mann still offers good value to the Royals
Don't exaggerate the negative import of Mann's poor Omaha batting; it was the kind of prolonged slump even the best professional hitters dread but inevitably go through more than once. His .307 average and 14 homers he hit at Oklahoma City before the trade strongly suggest he wasn't overmatched by the pitching at the minor leagues' highest level.
Even more belies any notion that Mann suddenly became hapless at the plate. As he always has, Mann consistently found ways to get on base. He finished with a .354 Omaha OBP and ended the season at .387, numbers entirely consistent with his career .369 mark. Only once has he dipped under .350 in any one season, and that was the .348 he posted in his first pro campaign.
Also encouraging was, and is, Mann's power. The six homers he hit for the Storm Chasers gave him a career-high 20 for the season. Only in 2018, the year the Dodgers drafted him, did he fail to hit at least 14.
What the Royals have in Mann offensively, then, is a proven decent hitter, one who knows how get on base, and one with some pop; a 37-game slump won't put him out of the baseball business.
And his defensive value? Mann is the type of extremely versatile player the Royals savor. As a pro, he's worked everywhere on the field except on the mound and behind the plate.
Predicting Devin Mann's 2024 season with the KC Royals organization
Mann, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Royals' 28th-best prospect, has a non-roster invitation to spring training where, but for the presence of Nick Loftin, a stellar Cactus League showing could secure a spot on the Royals' Opening Day roster. But Loftin is, by virtue of his own versatility and a short but excellent big league debut last season, the favorite to join newcomer Garrett Hampson as the club's top utility-type players.
That puts Mann back in Omaha to begin the 2024 campaign. Don't look for last year's long late-season slump to stand in his way; instead, expect him to rebound from it, hit well, remain on the big club's radar. and be ready should Kansas City require his services.
And don't be surprised if he gets to Kauffman Stadium before the season ends.