Blue Jays: Alek Manoah has the big-game starter genes

Alek Manoah has shown his value to the Blue Jays in many ways, but the performance and poise from the rookie in big games has been especially impressive.

It started right from his MLB debut when he made his first start in New York at Yankee stadium. It was a dream come true for Manoah and his family, but drawing that kind of assignment in your first start is about as tough as it gets. Rather than show the slightest bit of nervousness, Manoah threw 6.0 innings of shutout baseball against one of the most dangerous offences in baseball, allowing just two hits and striking out seven.

When you look at the big right-hander’s game log for the season, it’s interesting to note that most of his tougher outings have come against non-contending teams. The Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles were the two teams to solve him in June, the Washington Nationals taught him a few lessons in August, and otherwise it was just the Oakland A’s who have kept him from improving on his impressive stat lines.

When you look at the rest of the teams Manoah has faced in his young career, it’s pretty impressive to see the list of those he’s held at bay. There was the Yankee game in his debut at the end of May, and he had impressive outings against the White Sox (1 run on 4 hits over 5.0), and Red Sox (1 run on 4 hits over 6.0) in just his third and fourth starts of his young career.

He’s twice dominated the AL East leading Tampa Bay Rays, including an absolute gem last night. He’s had excellent starts against lesser teams like the Royals and Tigers as well, and he’s even impressed when his opposition sees him for the second time, such as he did against the Red Sox and White Sox later in the season as well.

What impresses me most about the 23 year old is that a big moment doesn’t phase him at all, in fact, it looks like he’s the type of pitcher that wants the ball in those moments. Obviously that’s a trait that every team is looking for out of all of their pitchers, but it’s truly impressive to see a rookie with this much confidence, and backing it up to boot. I don’t mean to suggest that he’s arrogant at all, because that’s certainly not the case from what I see on television. He just looks like a big kid that is having the time of his life, and realizing that he not only belongs, but has the tools to be truly elite at the highest level.

Last night’s start against the Rays might be his finest outing to date when he only gave up one hit over eight shutout innings while striking out ten, and it came at a time when the Blue Jays really needed him. When some young pitchers might be wearing down near the end of the season, Manoah looks like he’s getting stronger, and it’s all the more impressive considered he didn’t have a minor league season to pitch in last year.

Chances are if the Blue Jays end up in the Wild Card game of this year’s postseason they’ll likely hand the ball to their Cy Young candidate in Robbie Ray, or perhaps to their prize trade acquisition in Jose Berrios. That said, Manoah has proved that he’s more than worthy of receiving a postseason start should the team move on to the next round, and it won’t be long until he’s the guy getting the ball in those big games. He has the talent, and maybe more importantly, the big-game genes to be that guy.