No Blue Jays’ prospect got tongues wagging quite the way Alek Manoah did during spring training.
The 23-year-old righthander selected 11th overall in the 2019 draft from West Virginia was simply overpowering in seven innings across three outings—two of them against regular season-caliber Yankees’ lineups—striking out 15 while allowing one hit and zero walks.
After a summer spent at the alternate training site made it difficult to assess where he stood, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Manoah’s dominance suggested that his arrival to the majors is on the horizon.
“It’s been pretty good for me just to understand that the stuff plays, just go out there, be yourself,” Manoah said. “You don’t need to be too much. You don’t need to shoot yourself down. Just go out there, stay level-headed and just let the game take care of the rest, just do everything that I can control.”
Manoah sat 95-97 mph during his appearances. His slider played effectively off it, and he mixed in a sinker. In his sole start against the Yankees he used a changeup, as well. He generated 18 swinging strikes across his seven innings.
Given that Manoah’s professional experience to this point includes just six starts for short-season Vancouver in 2019, how aggressively the Blue Jays push him was up for debate.
He was assigned to the alternate site this spring, and while there were visions of using him in the bullpen at some point in 2021, there’s a bigger picture to Manoah’s progression, too.
“Someone asked me a month ago who I was the most excited about seeing camp, and it was Alek,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said. “He’s put himself in incredible position. It’s unfortunate that we missed a lot of time and development opportunities last year because of Covid, but it’s hard to say exactly how fast he could move.
“Workload is an issue. Competitiveness and heartbeat doesn’t seem to be an issue. But we will err on the side of being a bit more patient as we think about these coming weeks and months. Beyond that, he’s going to dictate his pace.”