Truthfully I never intended to write this post. Over the past few weeks I’ve tried, sometimes unsuccessfully, to plan my content a few weeks out. My original intention was for this 800+ words to cover Bobby Bradley. Why Bradley? Because it ain’t just chicks who dig the longball, it’s fantasy nerds, and prospect geeks too. Then something happened, increasingly over the last several months, Oakland A’s lefty Sean Manaea has become a hot topic of conversation. All of a sudden all the cool kids are talking about him, and wearing his jeans. Manaea couture to be exact. I’ve transitioned. Wait, what? No, not like that! – Not that there’s anything wrong with it – No! not “it” like that…..I’m painting myself into a corner here….. Any the who, I’ve transitioned from writing Manaea off as a hyped up yet oft-injured lefty with devastating stuff, to being intrigued by the possibility of acquiring him in dynasty formats. So this intrigue has led me to a deeper dive into the increasing hype of his prospect status this offseason, and whether it is real or mirage.
Sean Manaea, LHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2016 | 2015 Level: A+/AA
2015 Stats: 74.1 IP, 2.66 ERA, 3.1 BB/9, 10.9 K/9
First let’s begin with the track record and background, shall we? The 6’5 lefty wasn’t heavily recruited coming out of high school, despite winning the 2010 Indiana state championship with Andrean High School. In fact he wasn’t even drafted -which seems completely mind boggling to me considering there’s like 23,000 rounds in the MLB draft – Manaea then enrolled at Indiana State University. From there things took off. After a relatively pedestrian freshman year where he struggled with control, the lefty took a major step forward in his Sophomore season. Over the course of his second year he scaled back on the walks and saw an uptick in k’s, which in turn saw his K/Bb nearly double from 1.71 his freshman year to 3.11 his sophomore year. In the process Manaea made 17 starts and dropped his ERA a full run (okay .98) to a respectable 3.34. Things were definitely coming together for the tall lefty.
Following his strong 2012, Manaea was invited to participate in the Cape Cod League that summer and proceeded to build his rep, winning the most outstanding prospect award with a 5-1 record, a 1.22 ERA and 85 k’s to just 7 walks in 51 2/3rds innings. Yup you’re seeing that correctly, that’s a 14.5 K/9 paired with a 1.2 Bb/9. The following year Manaea returned to Indiana State with many believing he could be the top pick in the June draft. For the most part he delivered, posting a 1.47 ERA, a WHIP of 1.04, and a K/9 of 11.41. Leading many to rate Manaea as the top pitching prospect available, but a hip injury and the certainty of looming surgery, saw him drop all the way to pick 34 and the Kansas City Royals. Upon signing a well above market deal Manaea elected to have surgery to fix a torn acetabular labrum, delaying the start of his professional career until the following spring.
Healthy and ready to go for Spring Training in 2014, Manaea spent the season at high class A Wilmington of the Carolina League. There he made 25 starts and led the league in strikeouts while also putting up a respectable ERA of 3.11. More than anything he proved he could make it through a season unscathed….kinda…
His 2015 got off to a late start, missing most of the first half with a pair of injuries – abdominal and groin – that sound like they were the product of a non-stop 18 hour love making session. Though they were probably from baseball. (Psssst they were…) So upon returning to Wilmington and making 4 starts to mediocre results, our hero was promoted to AA Northwest Arkansas, and then swiftly traded to the A’s for Ben Zobrist. Upon arriving in Oakland, Manaea was assigned to AA Midland of the Texas league, and went absolutely bonkers going 6-0 in 7 starts with a 10.8 K/9 and a 1.90 ERA. Following the minor league season he headed to the Arizona Fall League where he continued to dominate.
So what good is all this info what can we learn Ralph? Well, young Fantasy Baseballa’ there are a few things we can deduct from all this information.
1. He’s been successful at every level.
2. He’s struck out batters at a high rate at every level.
3. He’s also struggled at times with his command.
4. Throughout college and through three levels of the minors Manaea has kept the ball in the ballpark, never averaging more than .60 HR/9.
As for the arsenal, he mixes a plus-plus fastball, with a plus slurvy slider, and an above average change. Though at times his offspeed offerings can look pedestrian in his bad starts. There’s also a huge fluctuation in velocity, sometimes hitting 96-98 wiht the heater, while at other times being clocked at 89. But all of this pails in comparison to the elephant in the room, his health. With injuries being a huge part of the package with Manaea it can’t be ignored. The hip injury is the scary one, because he’s 24 and not 84. It’s also not exactly ideal that it FLARED UP again this spring. Okay, I’m freaking myself out a bit again. Needless to say no one would blame you if you were scared away, and it’s something you must be cognizant of before acquiring him in dynasty formats. The upside on the other hand is tempting, a lot of scouting reports limit his upside at a 3 or 4 starter, but that seems extra cautious. Based on the numbers he looks like a potential fantasy number 2 starter with huge K upside in a pitchers park. If he gets over his current injury early in the first half of the season, a call up to the bigs should, and could be in short order. At that point he’s a player that should be tempting in all formats, including RCL’s. My guess for an ETA range would be sometime in mid-late July if all goes well.