Image credit: Devin Mann (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — When the Dodgers drafted Devin Mann in the fifth round out of Louisville last year, they did so with the belief they could unlock untapped power in his bat with a few adjustments to his swing.
It hasn’t taken long for Mann to prove the organization right.
Mann went 2-for-4 with a long home run to lead high Class A Rancho Cucamonga (Dodgers) to a 9-4 win over Lake Elsinore (Padres) on Wednesday night.
With four games left until the California League all-star break, the 22-year-old infielder leads Rancho Cucamonga in batting average (.275), OPS (.825) and total bases (110) and is tied for the team lead with 12 home runs.
“When I was at Louisville I was a very reserved hitter,” Mann said. “I didn’t really use my body well, use my levers well. Then, when I got drafted with the Dodgers, we made a lot of changes with my lower half and bat path, just making sure I was tapped into all the power that I have and making sure I’m staying through the zone better. It’s paid off so far. I’m happy with the changes we’ve made.”
Mann’s power production stands in notable contrast to his past. He hit a combined 15 home runs in three years at Louisville. He hit only two home runs in 65 games last year after signing. Now, he’s tied for second in the California League in home runs.
His home runs this season haven’t been cheap, either. Mann’s latest blast clanked off the batter’s eye 401 feet away in center field.
“I never really tapped into that before just because of the reserved swing,” he said. “But as we made the changes in the offseason, just month by month would go by being out in Arizona and you would start to see flashes of it.
“I knew I had it in me, but I was just unsure how to tap into it. Now that we have, it’s really taken off.”
With Mann leading the way, Rancho Cucamonga won the California League’s first half South Division title with nearly a week still to play. He was personally rewarded with a selection to the league’s all-star game next week.
“He came to the Dodgers a talented person, that’s why he was selected,” Rancho Cucamonga manager Mark Kertenian said. “But he’s definitely made full use of the resources and how he’s approached little tweaks and adjustments with the staff. It’s earned.”
Mann’s contributions haven’t been limited to the offensive side. He has improved his footwork, athleticism and arm strength at second base under the care of the Dodgers’ player development staff, and he’s received his first extended exposure at third base as well to help enhance his versatility.
“We’ve seen some really incredible plays out of him at both spots,” Kertenian said. “Fearless going for it, but having his legs underneath him. I think he’s gotten the ball in and out of the glove with some velocity on the throws very, very well. That’s been a significant improvement.”
All the improvements have vaulted Mann from an interesting prospect to potentially one of the Dodgers’ better ones. It’s been a rewarding process for himself, as well as for the Dodgers’ amateur scouting staff that had faith in him.
“It’s definitely been nice,” he said. “I worked really hard this offseason. I put my head down and got after it. I was happy with the changes, and I’m happy with the results that I’ve had so far.”
NEWS AND NOTES
— Padres’ No. 19 prospect Luis Campusano went 3-for-5 in the game to raise his batting average to .314, second-highest in the Cal League. The 20-year-old catcher also had three miscues in the field, however. Campusano made two throwing errors—one trying to throw a runner out at second base from his knees and another trying to back-pick a runner at first base—and also threw down to second in a first-and-third situation on a difficult pitch to throw down on, allowing the runner on third to score on the back end of a double steal.
— Padres’ No. 26 prospect Esteury Ruiz went 2-for-3 with a double and two walks and has now reached base in eight of his last 10 games. He was also thrown out twice on the basepaths—first trying to steal third base with one out in the first inning and then trying to stretch a single into a double into the fifth inning—and also mishandled a ground ball at second base for his league-leading 13th error.
— Eguy Rosario supplied the offensive highlight for Lake Elsinore when he led off the fourth inning with a home run that clanked off the top of the scoreboard in left field. The 19-year-old Dominican infielder finished 2-for-5.