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Pearson and Manoah bring the heat

So did Troy Watson, who was almost perfect for seven inning

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 02 Winston-Salem Regional - West Virginia v Maryland Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Nate Pearson took the mound for New Hampshire against Erie, and spent the evening totally lighting up the radar gun. Over six innings, he touched triple digits at least a half dozen times, topping out at 102 MPH on a strikeout of Daniel Pinero in the 6th inning, his 23rd batter of the night. Three of those triple digit readings came in that 6th inning, so not only is Pearson showing the huge velo, but he’s showing he can not only hold it but the Verlander-esque trait of ramp it up later in an outing. In addition to the triple digits, I caught at least 13 other readings of 97+.

Overall, Pearson threw a season high 93 pitches to 25 batters over six innings, allowing two runs on four hits, with three walks against eight strikeouts. He piled up 15 swinging strikes on 43 swings (65% contact rate). For the most part, he stuck with his fastball and slider, using the latter about a third of the time with just a handful of change-ups and slower curveballs. He was basically untouchable when he was locating the slider, he took some damage when he couldn’t rely on it and batters were able to sit on the fastball.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get him his first AA win, as he couldn’t quite finish the outing in allowing a home run with two out in the 6th after blowing away the first two batters to tie the game at 2-2. He largely cruised other than that and the 2nd inning, when he allowed a hard double with one out, and allowed a pair of walks sandwiched around a line drive RBI single. He stranded the bases loaded with a strikeout to minimize the damage. Contact-wise, it was an interesting outing in terms of being bifurcated — he gave up five or six hard hit balls, but also a lot of very weak contacts with (in particular) four infield popouts.

This second part is a little belated, but Alek Manoah also brought the heat in three inning his home debut in Vancouver on Thursday night. It was quite the outing, as none of the 10 batters he faced put the ball in play, as Manoah struck out seven while walking two and hitting another. One would be tempted to say he didn’t even need the two guys behind him, but two of those runners were erased on caught stealings so in that sense he did.

Manoah came out firing, hitting 98 and 97 on the stadium gun after hittign the first batter, before settling more into the 94-96 range for the rest of the outing. There was a triple digit reading to the first batter of the 2nd, but I’m skeptical that it wasn’t a hot reading (in the same way I doubt Syndergaard actually touched 100 in Vancouver) given the range otherwise and that he “only” touched 97 a couple times outside of that first pitch. He seemed to have some issues landing his slider in the zone, with the fastball doing most of the work for him.

So Manoah was clearly overpowering, with 10 swinging strikes on the 23 swings against him. Of course, there was some issues throwing strikes, as after the HBP each of the remaining six hitters over the first two innings saw six or seven pitches. That elevated pitch count made me mildly surprised he was allowed back out for the third inning, but he was totally dialed in at that point, striking out the side on 11 pitches.

Manoah has now thrown six shutout innings, with 12 strikeouts against two hits and four free passes. So far, so good for the first rounder in this year’s draft.

The final pitcher who definitely bears mentioning is much lower profile in Troy Watson, who himself was sitting in the mid-90s at Dayton last night, enabling him to take a perfect game into the 6th inning and ultimately throw seven shutout innings. In fact, combined with two perfect innings of relief from Wil McAffer and Cre Finfrock, a one out triple was the only batter allowed to reach safely.

Consistently sitting 94-96 on the Dayton Trackman, Watson largely cruised through seven on just 87 pitches. He only struck out four, mostly later in the outing, but induced weak and routine contact with the exception of the sixth inning. That started with a hard lineout to short, followed by the hard line drive single.

Watson was drafted in the 15th round last year, with a solid debut in Bluefield before starting in extended Spring Training this year. He was assigned to Lansing in late-May, and it took him a while to find his footing as he struggled to a 7.50 ERA over his first five starts. He’s been much better since mid-June, posting a 2.44 ERA in 59 innings over nine starts albeit with middling peripherals at 18 walks against 26 strikeouts (12%).

While he’s not getting the strikeouts one would like to see, the stuff suggests the ability is there. Watson’s fastball typically has sat around 93-94, and he’ll flash a good breaking ball. There’s clearly the ability to ramp it up a little higher as he did last night, so in a shorter relief role might be be able to ramp it up higher. In any event, he’s an under the radar name to keep an eye on as he moves through the system.