For a guy visiting one of the Blue Jays minor league affiliates a while ago , it was a sight to remember.
The team was out of town, and with the league All Star break upcoming, there would not be a chance to take in a game, unfortunately.
But there would be an opportunity to go behind closed doors to see a few things the general public couldn’t see. A seat in the dugout, a walk through the musty concrete underside of the ballpark, and the team clubhouse was on the agenda. It was in the former that a blogger got to take in the largest footwear he had ever seen – the size 17 1/2 cleats of one Alek Manoah, the recent first round draft pick. A glimpse inside of Manoah’s locker revealed a pair of a pants with “J. Czajkowksi” written in marker in the waistband. Big Jim was a former team pitching coach, now serving in that role up te ladder with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He is one rather large human being. But those cleats…..
Manoah dominated in pitch count limited outings in his rookie season. 2020 saw him at the alt site, where his development was accelerated in the presence of other top prospects.
This season in AAA, hitters have been absolutely overmatched against him. Manoah commands his mid 90s fastball well, and throws a slider from the same release point that is incredibly hard to pick up. Prospects Live gives a good view from behind home plate:
The development of a third pitch, be it a change up or a curve ball, will be what determines Manoah’s future. If he’s successful, he has top of the rotation potential; if not, a back end of the bullpen role is still in play. Manoah’s FB/SL combo is so good that he really only needs one other pitch to complement it. The issue is that he’s been so good at AAA that he really hasn’t needed that extra secondary. Hitters have been confounded enough by his top two pitches.
Over the past week, the Blue Jays front office email system has likely been working overtime with Manoah messages. As a young pitcher, he still has a few things to work on beside that extra secondary: holding runners on, and refining his sequencing are among the developmental tasks still ahead of him (granted, you don’t have to worry about the running game if you don’t allow many base runners).
Manoah may not be successful in his first few starts; that would not be unusual, especially when he’ll be making his debut in Yankee Stadium. But Manoah is highly competitive, and very athletic, and if hasn’t surpassed Nate Pearson as the team’s top pitching prospect….he’s close. Toronto has obviously decided that his development will have to continue at the big league level. He may need a few innings or even starts to get his feet wet, but his stuff will be electric.