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Alek Manoah crawls closer to Jays rotation with set of sizzling Triple-A outings

·MLB Writer
·4-min read
Alek Manoah has only made two Triple-A starts, but the
Alek Manoah has only made two Triple-A starts, but the "bring him up right now" sentiment is gaining more credibility with every pitch the Blue Jays prospect throws in Buffalo. (Getty)

When Alek Manoah made his Triple-A debut on May 6, he seemed like a guy who wouldn’t be spending much time at that level.

The right-hander pitched six brilliant innings, racking up 12 strikeouts, and looked like a man among boys.

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Considering the uncertainty in the Toronto Blue Jays’ rotation behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, Robbie Ray, and Steven Matz, that one outing launched a massive hype train for the massive 6’6” 260-pound starter.

After Manoah’s performance on Wednesday night, we’ve got a bullet train on our hands.

The prospect’s second Triple-A start was nearly as strong as his first, as he went six scoreless innings, allowing a single hit with five strikeouts and two walks. He had a brief wobble in the third inning when he hit one hitter then walked another, but escaped with a double play. He looked mortal again when he gave up a leadoff double in the sixth, but ultimately he couldn’t be touched.

Not only were the results there for Manoah, his stuff was overwhelming, and the outing was sprinkled with moments that showed he was a cut above his opposition. In the second inning, he struck out Yasmany Tomas — a former 30-homer slugger in the majors — by getting him to swing and miss on three consecutive, and nearly identical, high fastballs.

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In the fourth, Manoah struck out Jake Noll on four straight sliders. That in and of itself if impressive, but look at Noll’s reaction to the first one he saw:

Compare that to how fooled he was on the fourth slider — the one he was called out on.

Even after seeing a quartet of sliders, Noll was completely bamboozled. That’s a good indication of how special the pitch is.

With a runner on third and one out in the sixth — the only moment in the game when he needed a strikeout — he locked up Rafael Bautista with a backdoor slider that perfectly painted the outside corner:

A lot of pitchers can string together a couple of strong Triple-A starts, not too many can do it as convincingly as Manoah has in his first two appearances at the level.

It may seem overzealous to think of Manoah as a near-term option for the Blue Jays considering the 29 innings he’s thrown in his minor-league career, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. The former 11th overall pick is a 23-year-old who probably would’ve worked his way through High-A and Double-A in 2020 if minor-league ball was being played. His development last year took place out of view at the Blue Jays alternate site — and a gym Manoah and his brothers set up in a Miami warehouse. Under different circumstances, he’d have a relatively extensive — and likely impressive — minor-league track record.

He also has the goods from a repertoire perspective. Manoah possesses a high-spin fastball that sits 95-97 and allows him to dominate the top of the zone. He can also generate whiffs, or freeze hitters, with a wipeout slider that sits in the low 80’s, or throw them off with a changeup that’s as hard as Ryu’s fastball.

While there are questions about his command and consistency that can only be answered by more starts, the enthusiasm for Manoah is justified. His stuff is incredible, Triple-A does not look like it will be much of a challenge for him, and there’s no specific reason to believe he’s a long way from thriving at the major-league level.

There are no guarantees when it comes to prospects — especially pitching prospects — and the Blue Jays need look no further than Nate Pearson for a salient example of how a pitcher who has all the tools to succeed can stumble trying to establish themselves as a big leaguer.

That’s standard boilerplate expectation managing that can be applied to anybody.

The good news for Blue Jays fans is that so far Manoah doesn’t look like just anybody. He looks exceptional.

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