Finally, there is former team ace and pitching phenom Alek Manoah. Manoah took the world by storm when he surprised everyone by making his MLB debut back in 2021 with only 35 career minor league innings under his belt. However, he defied the odds and put together a strong rookie season by going 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, with 127 strikeouts in 111.2 innings pitched. He would promptly follow it up with a spectacular 2022 season in which he finished as a Cy Young finalist by posting a stellar 16-7 record with a 2.24 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, with 180 punchouts in 196.2 innings of work.
At that point, Manoah appeared to be unstoppable as many of the Jays’ faithful anticipated what he would have in store for 2023 to surprise the nation. Well, he certainly fulfilled the element of surprise, but not in the way anyone expected. Manoah completely fell apart last year by compiling an uncharacteristic 3-9 record with a 5.87 ERA and 1.74 WHIP as he was plagued with constant issues with his control and command for much of the season. Ultimately, he was demoted twice to the minors and eventually shut down near the end of the season.
Many of us don’t know if Manoah can regain his prior dominant form for the 2024 season, but GM Ross Atkins injected his vote of confidence in a presser in late 2023. He clearly stated that he felt Manoah has a strong leg up on his competition for a spot in the rotation, along with full belief in him returning to his 2021/2022 form. With no plans of the Jays pursuing any more starters currently this offseason, Manoah will likely start the season in the Jays’ rotation as a back end, number five starter. However, if he hasn’t corrected his pitching mechanics from last season, he could be in for a long season that could see him spend more time in development in the minors to hopefully re-establish what once made him a successful, effective big league pitcher. Hopefully, an impressive Spring Training will help put away any doubts and give us and himself a glimmer of hope to build upon once again for the coming season.