Believe me folks. I’ve been mulling this one over for a while.
As far as the Blue Jays 3rd, 4th, and 5th ranked prospects are concerned, Alek Manoah, Adam Kloffenstein, and Simeon Woods Richardson would fit the bill.
But not necessarily in that order. And that’s the reason for my extended musing.
All have tremendous upside. But as guys pitching in the lower minors, they have some flaws which they will have to overcome as they move up.
Let’s start with Mount Manoah (as C’s broadcaster Rob Fai termed him), he of the size 17 cleat pictured above. The Blue Jays 1st round pick is one huge individual. When he arrived in Vancouver, the only pants the club could find to fit him once belonged to former pitching coach (moved to Dunedin last year) Jim Czajkowski, himself a large man.
Manoah’s pro debut was limited to just 17 innings over starts after being selected in the 1st round, 11th overall, in June. His longest stint was 4 innings, a feat he matched in his final two starts, a punctuation mark of an outing in which he fanned 8, walked none, and gave up only 3 hits. While I was unable to get eyes on Manoah this summer, he easily reminded one of Nate Pearson. In late August of 2017, I caught Pearson’s next-to-last start with the C’s. Pearson gave up a run in the 2nd inning of that start, his 8th with the Northwest League club. It was the first time a runner had gotten past 2nd against him.
A bullpen guy his first two years of college, Manoah finally harnessed his fastball command in the Cape League in 2018, and was dominant as a starter for West Virginia. His mid 90s fastball/wipeout slider combo was too much for college and short season hitters, and therein lies the rub. We didn’t get a firm idea of how his change (a pitch he didn’t use much in his final college season) came along last season, partly because it would be a project for the off-season, and partly because he didn’t really need it.
Several sources have said in the long term Manoah projects best as a Closer, a lockdown guy whose velo would play up in a short relief stint, which would make his slider even better. The Blue Jays, of course, will give him every opportunity to make it as a starter. But it will be the development of his secondaries which decide his future.
After being limited to only a pair of innings after being selected in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, Adam Kloffenstein met expectations at Vancouver this season, nabbing Baseball America‘s 5th-top NWL prospect ranking. Not possessed of a blazing fastball just yet – but with some room for projection – Kloff showed a five-pitch mix, highlighted by a low 90s bowling ball of a sinker, and he demonstrated an ability to command and sequence each one of his pitches. Everything grades as at least average, and he has an innings-eater frame. Kloffenstein is definitely trending upwards.
Anthony Kay may provide the Blue Jays with some back of the rotation value, but it became apparent quickly that Simeon Woods Richardson was the centerpiece of the Marcus Stroman trade. BA named SWR the Sally League’s 7th ranked prospect despite spending the final month-plus of the season in the Florida State League. SWR shows an advanced feel for pitching for someone so young, along with a mid 90s electric fastball and a 12-6 curve. Like Manoah and Kloffenstein, it will be the development of at least another pitch like his change (which sometimes flashes as at least average) that will dictate the extent of his advancement. One note of caution is that Woods Richardson tends to live up in the zone, and can catch a lot of the plate at times.
All three prospects project as at least mid-rotation arms. There is not a lot to pick and chose between them. There is some element of risk to each of them, but there is significant potential reward.