Blue Jays: Does Alek Manoah have a shot at Rookie of the Year?

Aug 11, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Alek Manoah (6) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 11, 2021; Anaheim, California, USA; Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Alek Manoah (6) delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s pretty hard to imagine where the Blue Jays would be without Alek Manoah in 2021, and that’s not something I thought I’d be saying a few months ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a big fan of the charismatic right-hander since the Blue Jays drafted him in 2019, and even more so after I had the chance to interview him last year. However, I wasn’t expecting him to debut until later in the season, and I definitely didn’t predict this kind of dominance out the gate. After last night’s outstanding performance against the Angels he’s now 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP over 11 starts covering 59 innings. He’s held opposing hitters to a .181 batting average, and struck out 71 already.

As we watched yet another productive outing from Manoah last night, I saw a handful of people saying that he might even be a candidate for the Rookie of the Year award. That got me wondering, does he actually have a chance to win the award even with his late start to the MLB season? Remember, he began the year in Triple-A and didn’t debut in the big leagues until May 27th.

To answer that question, the first place I went to look was at the other rookies that are making an impact in the American League this season. I wouldn’t say that there’s a clear runaway leader in the field, but Manoah is going to have his work cut out for him to be a legitimate contender for the award. Heading into his start (which was exceptionally well with 6.2 IP, 2 ER, and a career-high 11 K), Manoah had earned 1.6 bWAR, and 0.7 fWAR. That’s not the determining stat by any means, but it’s a reference point for his overall value in 2021, and both marks will go up after Wednesday night’s performance.

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Who are the other candidates? 

Eric Haase has quietly put together an excellent rookie season as the regular catcher for the lowly Detroit Tigers, which at least partially explains why he’s flown under the radar.

The 28 year old took a while to get to the big leagues, but he’s making his rookie campaign count and leaving an impression on the Tigers. He’s slashing .238/.288/.515 which leaves a little something to be desired, but he’s hit 18 home runs and collected 46 RBI over 238 at-bats. Baseball reference has him rated at 1.9 bWAR so far, and Fangraphs scores him at 1.4. You could argue that Haase is more deserving of a Rookie of the Year vote over Manoah right now, but I doubt that’ll be the case by season’s end.

The second candidate on the list would be a player that many fans (myself included) forget is still rookie eligible. Randy Arozarena made a name for himself during last year’s playoff run for the Tampa Bay Rays, but he still hadn’t collected 130 regular season at-bats when the 2021 campaign began, so he’s technically still a rookie.

The 26 year old has been impressive once again this season, as he’s slashed .271/.347/.461 with 16 HR, 52 RBI, and 11 stolen bases over the course of 384 at-bats. He definitely has the advantage of having played a full season in the big leagues in 2021, and that’s reflected in his 2.9 bWAR rating, and his 2.2 fWAR mark as well.

One of the bigger surprises in the American League this season has been the play of Adolis Garcia of the Texas Rangers. Another late-bloomer, the 28 year old has slashed .250/.295/.490 with 25 home runs and 68 RBI over 392 at-bats. Had the season ended at the All-Star break I’m willing to bet Garcia would have won the award, and he still has a very good chance to earn some hardware in 2021. Baseball Reference scores him at 3.1 bWAR this year, while Fangraphs has him at 2.1.

Last but not least, the Astros always seem to find a way to produce quality pitchers, and Luis Garcia is no exception. The 24 year old Venezuelan made his MLB debut last year appearing in five games, and he’s been a big reason for the Astros’ success in 2021. Over 21 appearances including 19 starts he’s gone 8-6 with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP, striking out 129 over 106.2 innings pitched. As for the WAR ratings, Baseball Reference has him at 2.0, while Fangraphs is even higher for once at 2.4. There are others who could be in the mix like Casey Mize of the Tigers, or Andrew Vaughn of the White Sox, but I think the four I’ve mentioned are Manoah’s biggest competition.

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Now that we’ve looked at the other candidates, do you still believe Manoah has a chance to win the award? At 62-51 the Blue Jays have 49 games left in their regular season schedule, and Manoah will likely make somewhere between 8-10 more starts. With the way he’s performed so far it’s not out the realm of possibility he could make up ground on those that have played a full MLB season, but he might have to keep up the historic pace he’s set so far in order to pull it off.