The Blue Jays selected pitchers with their first two picks in the MLB draft with Alek Manoah and Kendall Williams, both imposing figures on the mound.
Ross Atkins and the Blue Jays’ front office had a key opportunity to continue work on the roster of the future at the MLB draft on Monday night.
There are a lot of armchair scouts and GMs out there, but I think most Blue Jays fans were pleased to see pitchers selected with the first two picks, an area of need in the minor league pipeline, at least compared to a talented group of offensive talent.
They selected Alek Manoah in the first round with the 11th pick and went with another right-handed starter at #52 with Kendall Williams. They are both hard-throwing right-handers with solid potential, but they also have a similar trait in that they’re both listed at 6’6, and project to be imposing figures on the mound.
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At 21, Manoah is more of a man than a boy, as he’s also 260 lbs in addition to his big height. Williams is still just 18 years old (he’ll be 19 in August), so he’s got plenty of time for his frame to fill out, even if he’s listed as a reasonable 205 lbs.
I definitely don’t mean to read anything into the Blue Jays’ draft strategy with this comment, but I couldn’t stop my mind from going to two places. The first was that they ignored the “Height Doesn’t Measure Heart” mantra that Marcus Stroman has turned into a source of inspiration, as well as a brand to build in his time both on and off the field. Not that Stroman’s concept is built on exclusion, but let’s just say Manoah and Williams won’t be joining his marketing team, unless they’re used as perspective against Stroman or someone of his stature. The veteran is listed at 5’8, at least a full 10 inches shorter than the two newest draft picks.
The second place my brain went was thinking about back when the Blue Jays had a pair of very tall, imposing pitching prospects in Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay, who debuted in 1997 and 1998 respectively. I’m not suggesting that Manoah and Williams are similar pitchers, but all four men carry the similar trait of being 6’6, which can be used to a pitcher’s benefit if their delivery is sound.
Being of a long build doesn’t automatically make you a great pitcher, and guys like Stroman have proven that it’s not a requirement. However, it does give a long-bodied pitcher the ability to “get on top” of hitters at a great advantage, simply because they’re releasing the ball closer to the plate. Manoah is said to throw 94-97 miles per hour with the ability to touch 99, and it’s even more menacing when it’s delivered from a body like his, and Williams should be a mid-nineties type of guy with his velocity as well.
If you watch old clips of a guy like Randy Johnson, you’ll see why this can be a plus for a young pitcher. However, if you dial up some footage of a guy like Mark Hendrickson, you’ll see it doesn’t guarantee either. More importantly, these kids will have to grow into their potential, but regardless of their size. One thing is for sure, the Blue Jays drafted a pair of big kids on Monday night.