Alek Could Be Man-O-the-Hour Sooner Than We Think

It’s been a trying enough time lately for us Jays fans, with an array of losses, Cavan Biggio struggling in his first weeks as a major leaguer yet being told already by manager Charlie Monotyo he needs to be the clubhouse leader and Teoscar Hernandez, one of the worst fielding outfielders ever to take the field in the blue-and-white now being annointed as the new Centerfielder. Not to mention aging Edwin Jackson,who gave up 10 earned runs a few days back and has an ERA of over 11 being told he’s still in the rotation because in the words of the manager, “we don’t have anyone else.”

So, as much as the desire is there to comment on those things, or on Marcus Stroman going off on another one of his “me-I-me-me” rants and dissing his teammate Randal Grichuk online, let’s try to find a bit to be happy about as Jays fans. Starting with the recent draft, in which MLB figures Toronto made out among the top six teams with their drafts.

Their first round pick is hard to dispute. For years, Toronto seems to have been obsessed with “big” hard-throwing pitchers. Yes, Justin Verlander is 6’5” and of course, going back a ways, Randy Johnson was somewhere between “too tall to go through doors” and “Jolly Green Giant” but there also have been more than enough great pitchers of more normal dimensions. Take little Stroman, mouthy and sometimes lacking a filter between his brain and texting fingers, but still a fine, hard-working pitcher at 5’8”. All that said, I think we have to expect the Blue Jays first pick, Alek Manoah is a good one.

The lad from West Virginia U. is 21, 6’6” , maybe 6’7”, weighs in about 260, which the team admits puts him in the rare category of CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda among current MLB starters size-wise. But the right-hander has a fastball coming in at 95 regularly, 98 in a pinch, and a “plus slider” according to Baseball America. With his Mountaineers college team he was a pretty solid 9-4, 2.08 ERA and 144 Ks in just 108 innings this spring… me too, I had no idea they played that many games in university ball!

Anyway, Manoah is big, strong, has three good pitches apparently and – not to be undervalued- seems excited to be a Blue Jay and is already interacting nicely with Toronto fans on social media. At 21, I would project him to throw a few innings this summer in an A-club like Vancouver and be ready for AA next season. I like the pick and can only hope it ushers in a new-’90s for Toronto. In the 1990s, the Blue Jays managed to draft in the first round Shawn Green in ’91, Chris Carpenter in ’93, Hall of Famer Roy Halladay in ’95 (nice addition to that story, they picked his son Braden this draft in the 32rd round) and Vernon Wells in ’97. By the 2000s they’d gone on to such first round trivia answers as Gabe Gross, Russ Adams and Miguel Negron who collectively would make a pretty OK beer league softball team in some small towns.

I have a few more reservations about their second round pick, yet another big pitcher, Kendal Williams. The Florida high school kid is 6’7” and strong but there’s a whole lot that can go wrong in the probably six years between him picking up his $1.4M cheque and potentially being ready to pitch in the Majors. Third round pick Dasan Brown is also a teen, but he’s a speedy outfielder and a hometown boy who played for Canada’s Junior National Team. Obviously there’s also a lot that can go wrong there also, but his signing bonus is lower and outfielders are a little less likely to have career-limiting injuries when young than pitchers, and as a (suburban) Torontonian, he’s not a bad addition and Lord knows, right now the Jays are weak in the outfield!

They are a long ways off but they could be important names for Toronto in years to come.

To try to keep a positive spin, next we’ll look at the best ever… the Blue Jays best players ever to set foot on the astroturf.

5 comments

  1. badfinger20

    That is a big guy. Love those numbers he had in college.

    All it takes is a few good picks like Houston. It’s not like football and basketball where they are easier to predict… but these days with metrics they are getting much better at predicting careers.

    If you were a GM Dave would you look at high school or college pitchers more? I mention high school because of the lower mileage on the arms… but you don’t get the maturity.

    Anyway before I took a left turn… he looks very promising. You win with pitching…

    • Dave

      Pitching is huge… but also a bit harder to predict down the road, I think. Good question, Max… if I was a GM, FIRST I’d hire more scouts. They can’t make that much, even with travel expenses, so if I had to I’d divert a million or two off player payroll to hire more and more scouts. Sabermatics can take you only so far, (Particularly with maturing kids I believe) and there’s nothing like having experts watch them to see the signs of talent that could be worked with later. If I could I’d even bring on board a psychologist to, if possible, talk to potential draft picks to get an idea of which would work hard and which might take that bonus and party it away. In answer to your question, I’d give preference to college kids, definitely… closer to the majors so their skills would be better honed and there’s fewer years for arms to break down in the meantime. But, one couldn’t be closed-minded… if there was a really stellar high school pick available, that would merit taking over say, just a “pretty good” college choice. Also, I know there are sport scholarships, but I’d guess some kids who are great athletes but not very academically-blessed don’t make it into the college system and could slip through the cracks if teams only looked at post-secondary school options. How about you?

      • badfinger20

        A psychologist would be important because it’s so hard to tell what time of personality you are getting.

        What you said makes sense. I would want scouts at places where there are no scouts at… small high schools and backwater colleges to find lower draft picks…diamonds in the rough or just plain unnoticed. Thinking out of the box to find players that no one else finds. I would concentrate on the lower draft picks of hitting the lottery with an unknown…because you only have one or maybe two first round draft picks.

        I would be prone to take hitters from college and pitchers from high school just because of the innings… but that would NOT stop me from taking a good college pitcher. Tommy John surgery would not stop me either. Take Walker Buehler from Vandy who had to have Tommy John surgery and he fell to number 24 and the Dodgers took him… were patient and waited a year and now he could be an ace…He would have went top 10 but teams were scared.
        Try to find a lot of quality in the lower rounds.

      • Dave

        Yeah, I agree. As you point out, getting scouts out to the hidden corners of the nation (and elsewhere… I’d try to get a good scout looking at teens in the Dominican, another following Japanese ball etc) could be very worthwhile. I mean, you almost didn’t need your own scout to look at say, bobby Witt Jr this year or Byron Buxton a few years ago– there was so much written about them and so much data, all you had to do was bid and take a chance. It’s the surprise finds that make a difference, and a large number of stars have come from the tenth round or lower.
        To the point of the pyschologist, I’m really liking what I see from Manoah. By the day after the draft, he’d gotten a photo of himself on the mound photoshooped into Blue Jays uni and used it for his icon and he’s talking about how the Jays are a perfect fit for him, how he loves all the Canadians he’s met… I mean, yes, he just got $3M so he’s sure not expected to say “Damn! I wanted to pitch for the Yankees” but he seems to show absolutely the right attitude, and that goes some ways.

      • badfinger20

        Man you just made me laugh hard with the Yankees remark…
        That’s great he has that attitude because you can tell…plus the Blue Jays are a big market club with a history. It’s not like he is going to Tampa Bay.

        Yes it’s winning the battle of the lower draft…You are right you don’t need to follow the bigger ones very close unless to spot any weaknesses.

        The Dominican is important…hell they play year round there. They have drive unfortunately because they are so poor. Korea can a good place to look also.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s