After a first round pick last year that surprised everyone, the Blue Jays went with the pick that was the insider consensus, selecting University of West Viriginia junior RHP Alek Manoah with the 11th overall pick of the 2018 draft.
Manoah is a big power pitcher, listed at 6’6” and 260 pounds with a plus fastball that will sit in the mid-90s and touch the upper 90s. He pairs that with a breaking ball that is a swing-and-miss secondary putaway pitch:
Alek Manoah, Filthy Sliders (CG/15Ks). pic.twitter.com/u90aWXfLHS— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 13, 2019
His changeup is a work in progress, though at least has potential as a third offering that most viable starting pitchers need to turn over lineups three times. He apparently didn’t use it much this spring, with MLB Pipeline describing it as solid in his Cape Cod championship start last summer. There’s also some concern about his ability to repeat, and some reliever risk — though a potentially very high end one. In sum, he’s a college pitcher, a bit more of a project than traditionally would the case but also higher upside.
Manoah’s breakout came last summer on the Cape, when he threw 45 innings (including playoffs) over nine starts, logging a 3.57 ERA with 68 strikeouts against 14 walks. He carried that over to his junior year this Spring, emerging as a Friday night ace for West Virginia, who season just ended this weekend with their elimination from regionals (so he should sign pretty quickly). That was a marked improvement over his first two college seasons, split between starting and relieving. He threw 110 innings, his ERA around 3.55, with 61 strikeouts against 115 strikeouts.
Including Saturday’s regional loss to Duke, he throw 108.1 innings over 16 starts, with 144 strikeouts against 27 walks and a 2.08 ERA. That included a run of three straight starts in April in Big 12 play where he pitched 8 shutout innings with 11 strikeouts again Oklahoma State, and then consecutive 15 strikeout shutouts of Texas Tech and Kansas. Last week he again dominated Texas Tech — a top 8 national seed — over 8 innings with 10 strikeouts.
Keith Law was a fan of the pick:
Alek Manoah of @WVUBaseball goes 11th to #BlueJays. This guy is so much fun—because his stuff is electric, and b/c he has so much personality (see photo). He came to the Cape ASG and chatted through the fence for several innings with me & Tom Holliday. Great conversationalist. pic.twitter.com/zNZQRF1aQe— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) June 4, 2019
11. Blue Jays: Alek Manoah, rhp, West Virginia. Big, physical righthander with loud stuff, absolutely dominant this season, into upper-90's with explosive life, hammer slider, flashes feel for CH, throws a lot of strikes.— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) June 4, 2019
Alek Manoah has some of the biggest upside of the college class. Big-time fastball/slider combination and he's done a lot this spring to improve the strikethrowing.— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) June 4, 2019
I’d expect Manoah’s first assignment to be in Vancouver, as is generally the case with Blue Jays collegiate draftees. With over 100 innings already under his belt, it remains to be seen how many innings he’ll be allowed, though it’s worth noting with the Cape Cod innings he had about 100 last year as a base from which to build. It may be a similar arrangement to Sean Wymer last year, who pitched every fifth day but only for 2-3 innings.
See also: Perfect Game profile of Manoah from April