Toronto Blue Jays: Alek Manoah Lights Up Triple-A
By Charles Kime
In what might be seen as a brewing battle for rotation spots on the major league pitching staff, sixth ranked Blue Jays prospect Alek Manoah was outstanding in his Triple-A debut on Thursday.
He struck out 12 Worcester Red Sox in six innings of work, allowing only two hits and no runs in the win. The big, 6’6”, 23-year old righty lit up Triple-A, helping the Bisons to a 3-0 record to start the young season after outstanding work from fellow prospects Nate Pearson and lefty Nick Allgeyer.
After spending last year at the alternate site, 23 year-old Manoah made the rare leap from Low-A to Triple-A nearly two years since last pitching in a minor league baseball game. Manoah was Toronto’s first-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 2019, and he struck out 27 batters while allowing just five runs in 17 innings (six starts, 2.65 ERA) at short-season Low-A ball for the Vancouver Canadians that summer.
He was outstanding in spring training this year, pitching seven scoreless innings for the Jays in Grapefruit League play, and striking out 15 batters against walking none. Since then, he’s continued to pitch at the Blue Jays’ alternate site in Dunedin, and recently built up to 80 pitches. He threw 81 pitches in the win over Worcester, including 50 for strikes.
The MLB scouting report notes that Manoah is consistently sitting in the mid-90s and touching 97 mph with both four-seam and two-seam action, and has continued to develop his ability to sustain that velocity while controlling his pitches deeper into games.
Down in Double-A, Jays 4th ranked prospect Simeon Woods Richardson also made his season debut Thursday, and surrendered three runs (one earned) on four hits over four innings of work. The 20-year-old struck out eight and walked one, throwing 51 of his 76 pitches for strikes.
Woods Richardson opened eyes alongside Manoah in spring training this year, tossing eight scoreless Grapefruit League innings.
Certainly, these promising debuts at Triple-A for top starting pitching prospects Nate Pearson and Alek Manoah will raise questions as to why depth pitchers like Anthony Kay, Tommy Milone, and Ross Stripling are getting starts at the MLB level instead of the young guns. These are good problems to have, but after releasing $24 million man Tanner Roark because he wasn’t making the team more competitive, will the front office also make a bold decision to have the most competitive arms on the major league roster regardless of their limited minor league experience?
Each Triple-A start by Manoah and Pearson will certainly raise the volume on such questions.