Alek Manoah made his debut at Yankee Stadium in May 2021 and came out firing on all cylinders. Who could forget the images of his mom and family watching him in the bleachers in the Bronx? Manoah brought an energetic personality every time on the mound and was an All Star in 2022. His 2023 performance left a lot to be desired, including getting sent to the minor leagues twice. Which version of Manoah will show up to spring training and the regular season?
To put it simply, the projections are more bullish on Manoah in 2024. His stats in 2023 took such a turn for the worst that a simple regression to the mean seems in order. He yielded almost as many home runs and walks, yet pitched in nearly 100 less innings than the year before!
It seemed like he was giving up a lot of loud contact and home runs, which is projected to fall back in line with MLB averages. The projections are clear in that he suffered some bad luck. His .308 BABIP jumped nearly 70 points in one season even as other indicators paint a less worrying picture. To that end, a ZiPS projection of .279 BABIP and 1.19 HR/9 would represent not only positive steps in the right direction but fall more in line with his career norms and league averages. His BB/9 is projected to be nearly cut in half, down to a more manageable 3.43.
At the same time, this may be an entirely new pitcher than what Jays fans became accustomed to seeing two years ago. He may now be a mid-rotation pitcher and that is not necessarily a bad thing. ZiPS and STEAMER both have him pegged for an upper-4.00 ERA. The key for him will be limiting the damage and hard contact. Let the strong defense behind him do the dirty work. This is a pitcher who can rack up strikeouts when he is doing well, as evidenced by the 180 he accumulated during the 2022 AL CY Young season. In short, it was one bad year and does not necessarily mean he will always be consigned to this level of production. Plus, Alek will still be controlled at relatively reasonable rates for the next four years.
At the moment, it seems that Manoah will be given every opportunity to win back his job in the starting rotation this spring. The Blue Jays, however, aren’t taking any chances with their rotation. They brought in Yariel Rodriguez as starting depth and may need to utilize him if Manoah struggles once again. It will be fascinating to see not only how Manoah pitches in 2024, but also how he carries himself and what version of his personality will be showcased each time he is in the spotlight.