Game 27, Mariners at Athletics
King Felix vs. Sean Manaea, 12:35pm
Happy Felix Day! This Felix Day really feels like a joyous occasion, and not just a psychic band-aid applied to a decade’s worth of pain and frustration. Enjoy this.
Today’s match-up is one of the better ones of the young season. You’ve got His Royal Highness, nonchalantly stifling batters while writers still pen their obituaries for him because of this or that component-of-a-peripheral. And then you’ve got a really interesting prospect making his second start. As M’s fans, I think there’s a natural curiosity about the big prospects on rival clubs; we could be seeing this guy a lot over the next decade…how should we feel about that? It’s nice to do some oppo research while also basking in Felix’s light.
Manaea came out of nowhere (ok, it was actually Indiana State) in 2012 by putting up one of the most dominating Cape Cod League performances of all time. You sometimes wonder how much the wood bat leagues matter, and then you see a case like Manaea’s and it makes sense. After a good-not-great season in the Missouri Valley conference, Manaea struck out 85 and walked 7 in 51 2/3 IP and became the prohibitive favorite to go first overall in the next MLB draft. Instead, a slight injury and inconsistency marred his junior season; he still had excellent results, but his overall stuff just didn’t look like it did for Hyannis. Worse, there was some talk that he had shoulder discomfort in addition to a hip injury. Some teams still thought of him as a first-round talent, while other teams wouldn’t bite in the 3rd-4th round due to the risk. Even the teams that saw him as a potential value were scared off as much by his agent, Scott Boras, as his injuries. Manaea went from being the most famous Cape Cod pop-up prospect ever to being a case study in how teams value risk in the context of the brand new draft bonus pools.* Kansas City played a risky but ultimately successful play to get Manaea in the supplemental round by “reaching” for Hunter Dozier, a SS, at pick #8. They were able to sign Dozier to an underslot deal and give the proceeds to Manaea.
Unfortunately for the Royals, the inconsistency that marred his junior year for the ISU Sycamores followed him to pro baseball. He still missed tons of bats, but scouts were divided on everything from his future ceiling to his present velocity. Some reported 89-92, and others would say he was sitting 94-95. That’s a pretty big difference, and it seems like he’d alternate starts with great stuff with back-of-the-rotation offerings. He walked 4 in 4 starts in High-A in 2015, then walked 6 in just 7 IP in his first taste of AA. The Royals shipped him to Oakland in the Ben Zobrist deal – a clear case of a “both sides win” trade. The Athletics got the pitching depth they sorely needed (Sonny Gray’s the only drafted-by-Oakland starter to pitch for the A’s since 2013), the Royals got a piece of their Series-winning club. In 2016, Manaea’s stuff seemed to be playing up, and with injuries to Henderson Alvarez and the ineffectiveness of Eric Surkamp, the A’s called him up.
He’s got a low 3/4 delivery, and the lefty’s release point is shifted far towards 1st base. It’s not quite Chris Sale, but there are some similarities there. His fastball averaged 93-94 in his first MLB game, and it’s even closer to Sale in terms of movement than mechanics. His four-seam fastball gets 10-11″ of armside run – that’s Carson Smith’s-sinker, or late-period Randy Johnson level movement. Of course, armside run alone isn’t a predictor of success: I love this BP Pitch Fx leaderboard, because in between Sale and RJ sits ex-Tacoma Rainier standout and big-league…uh, NOT stand-out, Bobby Livingston. What made scouts drool on the Cape in 2012 though was Manaea’s slider. It’s thrown slower than you’d think – it’s more slurvy – and has good downward movement as a result. It may be a good pitch, but it’s just not in the same class as Chris Sale’s or even Carson Smith’s, as both pitches get much more horizontal break due to higher spin. Mark Rzepczynski’s slider’s kind of similar, actually.
Given the arm angle and his repertoire, I’d assume the M’s load up with right-handed bats today. Manaea’s splits haven’t been too prominent in the minors, but he’s probably not a really comfortable AB for many lefties. Given Seager’s success against Rzepczynski last night, though, I bet he’s not too worried about it.
1: Aoki, LF
2: Marte, SS
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Gutierrez, RF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Iannetta, C
8: Lee, 1B
9: Martin, CF
SP: THE KING
Donn Roach turned in his best performance since spring training, pitching the Rainiers to a 3-1 win over Salt Lake. Roach went 6 IP, giving up a run on 6 hits and no walks. David Rollins K’d 2 in an inning in relief, and he’s up to 12 2/3 IP on the year without a walk. Chris Taylor and Mike Zunino were both held hitless; the Bees will presumably pay for this today. The recently-outrighted Joe Wieland starts for Tacoma tonight.
Jackson kicks off their against JacksonVILLE today. The teams have agreed to extend the confusion around their names to the starting pitchers. Jake Esch starts for Jacksonville while Brett Ash starts for Jackson.
Bakersfield’s Andrew Moore worked past some early struggles and turned in a gem, going 7 IP, giving up 2 runs on 5 H and no walks while striking out *9*. Aaaand then the bullpen blew the 6-2 lead. Rancho scored 2 in the 8th off of Kody Kerski, then 3 in the 9th to walk it off against Kyle Schepel. Oh well. Anthony Misiewicz starts tonight.
Fort Wayne beat Clinton 4-2 despite giving the L-Kings 7 walks. The delightfully named Art Warren (I picture a really disorganized art supply store with lots of narrow passageways crammed with paints and charcoal pencils) starts for Clinton tonight. Warren’s been the L-Kings best starter, giving up just 2 earned runs over the course of his 4 starts and 23 1/3 innings. Warren was a 23rd round pick out of Ashland University in Ohio.
The M’s made a roster move yesterday, sending Tony Zych to the DL with rotator cuff tendinitis, which, while nothing’s ever certain, sounds pretty ominous. They called up ex-Ranger/Oriole righty Steve Johnson, who gave up Khris Davis’ HR in last night’s win. Johnson’s got a fairly straight, rising FB at 90mph, but as this piece in the Seattle Times mentions, it’s got some deceptiveness to it.
* This is why the 2013 Draft Preview spent more time talking about Manaea than the guys the M’s might actually draft. Still like going back to these previews; Chris Crawford’s stuff holds up pretty well, and you can’t say that about every “draft expert.” Chris is now the prospect guy at Baseball Prospectus, and has a new draft book out through BP.