Blue Jays: Analyzing the decision to debut Manoah against the Yankees

Mar 14, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting Alek Manoah (75) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 14, 2021; Dunedin, Florida, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting Alek Manoah (75) throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during the first inning at TD Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Toronto Blue Jays struggling to get productive innings out of their starting rotation from players other than Hyun Jin Ryu and Robbie Ray, the team has decided to make a call to Buffalo, planning to bring up top prospect pitcher Alek Manoah to start on Wednesday against the Yankees in New York.

Even the causal Blue Jays fan knows who Manoah is, as he is has been absolutely dominant this season down in AAA. Through three starts this year, the right-hander sports a 0.50 ERA with one earned run, three walks, and 27 strikeouts over 18.0 innings. He currently has a 0.556 WHIP and has been one of the best storylines to come out of the Blue Jays farm system this season.

It’s no secret that the back end of the Blue Jays rotation has struggled through the first two months, although they did have a successful weekend against the Rays with the bullpen pitching to disastrous results.  The rotation has thrown to a 4.42 ERA, ranked 18th in the league, but the issue stems more towards the starters not being able to throw deep into ball games, taxing the bullpen staff through most of the season so far. Blue Jays starters have thrown for 212.0 innings, placing them second last in the league in front of only the New York Mets, which makes the bullpen have to pick up the slack while also dealing with their own injury issues.

The addition of Manoah in the Blue Jays rotation was a move that many fans saw coming, and while the move may seem a bit earlier in the season than many predicted given he jumped from A ball to AAA this year (with the lost season in 2020), the organization has decided they are going with the hot hand in their farm system this week in New York City.

With his impressive start in AAA, Jays’ fans have been clamoring for management to call him up to the big league squad for weeks now, hoping he could bring some life to the team after a recent rough stretch of tough losses. While Manoah has been impressive through his three outings this season, it is a bit risky to have one of your best prospects make his major league debut against one of the hottest teams in the league (at the moment) who just so happens to also be a division rival.

The Yankees are playing well right now, currently riding a six-game winning streak after taking three of four games from the Texas Rangers and sweeping the Chicago White Sox. While the Yankees don’t boast the highest OPS (.702 – 17th) or batting average (.232 – 20th), the team does feature some prominent power hitters in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton (slated to return from the IL tonight) and are currently 10th in home runs (58). While the Yankees’ pitching staff is one of the main reasons for the team’s recent success, facing the Bronx Bombers in New York is always a tough task, even for the most experienced pitcher/player.

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Manoah has performed well this season, but playing in Buffalo versus pitching in Yankee Stadium is obviously a completely different animal. Having him face a power-hitting Yankees lineup is a risk the Blue Jays appear willing to take, especially if he struggles out of the gate and has trouble with his command, with almost every hitter in the opposing lineup being able to put the ball over the outfield wall on any mistake. There is the potential scenario that sees Manoah get roughed up similar to how Nate Pearson fared in Houston earlier this season, especially since this will be his major league debut in front of what will be a very excited Jays audience and a rough and rowdy New York crowd.

On the other hand, there is a reason that the Blue Jays are calling up Manoah to the big league roster rather than recalling Pearson or another prospect pitcher.

The Florida native has been outstanding so far this season and the Blue Jays brass must be impressed enough that they think the 6’6″ starting pitcher will be able to hold his own in the Big Apple.  Manoah did face the Yankees twice in Spring Training earlier this year, with the Blue Jays pitcher holding opposing hitters to one hit while striking out 11 over five innings of work. He was able to get D.J. LeMahieu to ground into a double play while Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gleybar Torres, Luke Voit, and Clint Frazier were all sent packing back to the dugout via strikeout. He faced some of the potent bats before to some success, but the bigger question will be how he adjusts when the lineup turns over and he has to face those same hitters again, something he did not have to face back in Spring Training.

The West Virginia alum is built to be a starter, with general manager Ross Atkins walking away impressed with his off-field work ethic and routine between starts after a quick scouting visit to AAA earlier this month. Manoah features a mid to upper 90’s fastball complemented with a wipeout slider and an ever-evolving changeup that keeps improving to keep opposing batters guessing in the box. The arsenal added with his off-the-field routine as well as his hot start in the minor leagues has convinced the Jays’ brass that he deserves a shot at the major league level, with one of the biggest tests of his career coming against a rival team who happens to be playing well and at home. Right into the fire if you will.

One question that will have to be answered prior to Wednesday is who will be dropped or moved from the 40 man roster in order to make room for Manoah. One of the  Blue Jays players on the injured list could be moved to the 60-day IL to make temporary room, otherwise, someone will have to be designated for assignment, especially if the Jays plan on keeping him on the roster for the rest of the season.

Next. Blue Jays: Fix the bullpen with another quality starting pitcher. dark

One can expect that this Wednesday will be one of the most-watched Blue Jays games of the season with Alek Manoah making his major league debut against the New York Yankees. The right-hander will be making this start with only 35.0 innings of professional ball under his belt and is facing a tough division rival in their home barn, a tough task for a pitcher who has never pitched at this level before.

If Manoah can carry over his hot start from AAA to the big leagues and keep his command sharp and the runs off the board, the Blue Jays will gain some very needed momentum in the starting rotation that will hopefully bolster their chances of playing in October again this season.