This season, the Blue Jays fanbase got to witness Alek Manoah on the big league stage, the club’s 11th overall selection back in 2019.
After a stellar junior year at West Virginia University, the Blue Jays selected the 6’6″ Florida product and the right-hander got right to work down in A ball, crafting a 2.65 ERA with the Vancouver Canadians while starting six games and striking out 27 batters in just 17.0 innings of work with just five earned runs allowed.
While Manoah would spend the 2020 campaign at the Blue Jays alternate training site, he would find a groove early this past season during Spring Training and would be almost untouchable down in AAA, starting three games and allowing only one earned run through 18.0 innings with 27 strikeouts, three walks, and a 0.556 WHIP.
He wouldn’t stay very long in the minors, with the Blue Jays needing him up in the big leagues with the various injuries to the pitching staff and Manoah did not disappoint. His debut would be against the New York Yankees in New York and he wouldn’t fold under the pressure, going six innings while striking out seven batters with just two hits and two walks, earning his first win with the Blue Jays in front of a raucous Yankees crowd.
The right-hander would continue to pitch well for the Jays in the rotation, finishing the year with a 3.22 ERA through 20 starts and 111.2 innings pitched with 40 walks, 127 strikeouts, a 10.2 K/9 innings, and a 1.048 WHIP. He would miss some time on the IL after slipping in the dugout and landing on his back in mid-July, missing roughly two weeks. Manoah also got his first suspension out of the way, courtesy of a Baltimore Orioles squad who didn’t appreciate him hitting Maikel Franco after allowing a few home runs prior to his at-bat, getting him tossed from the game and suspended for five more.
While Manoah most likely won’t win the Rookie of the Year award given he started the season in late May, the right-hander emerged as a potential centerpiece in the rotation for years to come, a notion that seemed only appropriate for fellow prospect Nate Pearson over the past two seasons. That being said, a full season of having the WVU alum on the mound for the Blue Jays could be a real difference-maker next season, especially if he can continue to build on his rookie campaign and keep his fiery attitude alive on the mound.
This begs the question – how does Manoah’s rookie season compare to former Blue Jays’ top pitching prospects during their rookie campaigns?
*For the purpose of this article, a pitcher’s rookie season will be designated as to when the player exceeded rookie limits as per Baseball Reference*