After a fantastic Spring Training camp and an even better start in AAA, Blue Jays pitching prospect Alek Manoah pitched his way onto the Jays starting rotation with only 35.0 innings under his belt in the minor leagues.
Standing at a towering 6’6″, Manoah started the season as the organization’s #5 prospect and third-ranked pitcher after Nate Pearson and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Drafted in the first round of the 2019 MLB Draft, the right-hander becomes the second player from that draft to make his major league debut (Andrew Vaughn on the Chicago White Sox was first).
After not playing last season with the minor league season being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Manoah began this year in AAA, appearing in three games and surrendering only one earned run through 18.0 innings pitched while walking three and striking out 27 on his way to a 0.50 ERA. Prior to the 2021 campaign, Manoah had only appeared in six games with the Vancouver Canadians (Short-Season A Ball at the time), pitching 17.0 innings while crafting a 2.65 ERA with 27 strikeouts back in 2019.
The Toronto Blue Jays promoted one of their top pitching prospects in Alek Manoah to the big league roster when he only had 35.0 innings under his belt in the minor leagues. With such little experience, will the club have Manoah on an innings limit this season?
That being said, with pitchers throwing harder than ever before and arm injuries running rampant on the Blue Jays roster and minor league systems across the league, one wonders if the organization is going to have their top prospect on an innings limit this year.
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While Manoah did rack up over 251.1 innings through three years of college ball at West Virginia University and one summer in the Cape Cod League, the Florida native does not have a lot of experience in professional ball given the lost 2020 season. He did pitch at the alternate training site but was limited to just simulation games and training rather than real game scenarios in A or AA ball.
While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the Blue Jays have been cautious with their top pitching prospects since Ross Atkins and co. came into power, and an innings limit with a potential move to the bullpen seems inevitable for the right-hander later this season. This move can obviously be up for debate amongst fans and professionals alike but conserving the arm for the long run would most likely be the prevailing argument.
The issue with moving Manoah to the bullpen or limiting him via pitch/innings limit is that he is pitching well out of the rotation, sporting a 2.70 ERA through seven starts with 13 walks and 43 strikeouts. He was dominant in his debut at Yankee Stadium and even has an ejection under his belt after going high and inside on Maikel Franco on the Baltimore Orioles. His demeanor on the mound gives off a Marcus Stroman vibe but in a much bigger beast, one that challenges you inside but uses a sweeping slider and a solid changeup to rack up the strikeouts when the batter is thinking fastball.
Personally, I hope the Blue Jays keep Alek Manoah in the rotation for the season but can see the argument for a pitch/innings count on the rookie pitcher. If he starts to fade or does start to become fatigued as the season wears on then a move to the bullpen makes sense but that will hopefully be in August/September and not any time soon, with the Blue Jays needing his fastball and quality outings in the rotation for now.