- Full name Thomas Samuel Manzella
- Born 04/16/1983 in Chalmette, LA
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 200 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Tulane
- Debut 09/08/2009
Drafted in the 3rd round (89th overall) by the Houston Astros in 2005 (signed for $289,000).
View Draft ReportManzella wasn't drafted a year ago after hitting .311 in a lackluster junior season, but his stock is rising along with his offensive performance in 2005. He's a legitimate shortstop with some potential at the plate, a fifth-round talent who could go higher than that because he comes with a discount as a college senior. His situation is similar to that of Tony Giarratano, his predecessor as Tulane's shortstop. Giarratano rebounded from a terrible 2002 season to go to the Tigers in the third round of the 2003 draft. Manzella has better hands and instincts but less speed than Giarratano, whom he pushed to second base in 2002. It remains to be seen whether Manzella can make the huge jump with his bat that Giarratano has since turning pro. His range and arm are at least average, so he should be able to stay at shortstop.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Manzella has stood out with his glove ever since the Astros made him a third-round pick in 2005, but it took him four years to climb to the majors. A strong second half in Triple-A earned him a September callup, though he didn't get much of a chance to audition for the departing Miguel Tejada's shortstop job. Manzella is a defensefirst shortstop who positions himself well and shows good instincts. His hands and feet work well together and he has a strong, accurate arm. Manzella isn't much of a threat at the plate, where he's mostly a spray hitter with a little bit of gap power. He makes decent contact but doesn't draw many walks. An average runner, he's not much of a threat on the basepaths either. He's somewhat similar to Adam Everett, who spent five seasons in the minors before becoming Houston's starting shortstop. Offering more offense but not quite the same defense as Everett, Manzella could replace Tejada in 2010. He'll bat toward the bottom of the order and have to prove he can hit enough to warrant regular playing time.
Manzella endured an emotional 2008 season, during which his mother died from ovarian cancer. That came just as Manzella received a promotion to Round Rock after he earned Texas League midseason all-star honors at Corpus Christi. Unfortunately his performance dropped off significantly in the Pacific Coast League, raising concerns about his future profile. Tall, lean and athletic, Manzella has a good swing and covers the strike zone fairly well, but he doesn't show enough strength in his lower half to generate much leverage or power. At times, he can drop the bat head on mistake pitches. But the key with Manzella will be whether he can hit for enough average to be an everyday player. Defensively, he's a slick fielder in the mold of former Astro Adam Everett, with good feet and balance and good range going both ways. He makes strong throws across the diamond. His defense isn't quite as good as Everett's, though his offense should be better. How much better will determine his longterm role. The Astros saw enough to add Manzella to the 40-man roster after the season, and they'll give him a chance to break camp as a backup infielder. If not, he will return to Round Rock.
Manzella's future with the Astros took a hit when they traded five players for Miguel Tejada in December. However, he still could surface as a starter if Tejada's declining range leads him to third base in the future. Manzella also could soon become an Eric Bruntlett-style utilityman after Bruntlett was sent to the Phillies in the Brad Lidge deal. Manzella draws comparisons from inside and outside the organization to Adam Everett, Houston's starting shortstop for five years until getting nontendered in December. He's a better hitter than Everett though not as spectacular as a fielder. Nevertheless, defense is Manzella's best tool. He has range to both sides, as well as the arm and body control to make difficult plays. He had a long, metal-bat swing when he signed in 2005 and now has shortened it somewhat. He makes good contact and uses the opposite field, but he has no power and pitchers have no reason to walk him. He has average speed and good baserunning instincts. Last season was his first relatively healthy year as a pro after he battled elbow and ankle problems in his first two years. He's ready to play defensively in the majors right now, but with Tejada on board he'll get a much-needed year in Triple-A to work on his bat.
Manzella hasn't had anything come easy to him since he turned pro in 2005. Hurricane Katrina destroyed his family's home in Chalmette, La., during his debut. He also had a tough time adjusting to wood bats and had elbow problems that required arthroscopic surgery. In 2006, he went down twice during the season with ankle problems, and had to leave Hawaii Winter Baseball early when doctor diagnosed the injury as a hairline stress fracture. The Astros would love to see what Manzella can do when healthy, as he has the best all-around package of tools among their shortstop prospects. He is cutting down a swing better tailored for metal bats, and with further adjustments he could hit for a decent average. He also has gap power and enough speed to steal an occasional base. Where Manzella really stands out is with his glove. Managers rated him the best defensive shortstop in the South Atlantic League last year. He has solid range, a strong arm and fine instincts. Manzella's upside is as a stronger version of Adam Everett. He'll head to high Class A in 2007, with a good chance at a mid-season promotion if all goes well.
Manzella's 2005 pro debut couldn't have been more trying. Hurricane Katrina destroyed his family's home in Chalmette, La., but Manzella gritted it out until Tri-City completed its schedule even after the Astros offered to let him leave. He had a tough time adjusting to wood bats and dealt with a balky elbow that required arthroscopic surgery in the offseason. He has the makeup to bounce back from adversity, and he did just that after he had a mediocre junior season at Tulane that left him undrafted in 2004. As a senior, he emerged as the Green Wave's No. 3 hitter and RBI leader, helping them reach the College World Series. A third-round pick that came from the Mets as part of the compensation for Carlos Beltran, Manzella signed for $289,000. He's a better hitter than he showed in his first taste of pro ball, but he'll have to make adjustments to a long swing that's more tailored for metal bats. He had trouble fighting off inside pitches or lifting the ball. He has enough aptitude and strength to hit .275 with gap power and average speed. The Astros think he'll hit as much as Adam Everett and if that happens, Manzella's glove is good enough to make him a big league regular. He's the best defensive infielder in the system. He has good hands, a strong arm and fine instincts at shortstop, and he made just six errors in 45 pro games. Manzella likely will open 2006 in low Class A to help rebuild his confidence.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Houston Astros in 2009
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Houston Astros in 2008
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Houston Astros in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Houston Astros in 2007
- Rated Best Defensive SS in the South Atlantic League in 2006
- Rated Best Infield Arm in the Houston Astros in 2006
- Rated Best Defensive Infielder in the Houston Astros in 2006