by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
When we go looking for high-upside pitching options a lot of the attention is going to go to players like Jon Gray, James Paxton and Robbie Ray. They all bring high strikeout upside and the potential to put things together and emerge as Top 25 starters for the coming season. One pitcher who doesn’t always get lumped into the group is the A’s Sean Manaea, despite having posted strong marks in his rookie campaign:
124 Strikeouts (7.71 K/9)
37 Walks (2.30 BB/9)
44.2% Groundball Rate
Obviously his strongest asset was his control, with the strikeouts and groundballs appearing to be fairly pedestrian. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t upside, so let’s take a look and try to see where things may go.
He posted a 10.8 K/9 over his minor league career, including an 11.2 K/9 over 49.2 innings at Double-A. Even in the Majors last season he owned an 11.8% SwStr% and 35.4% O-Swing%, indicating that a spike in strikeouts is coming. Both his slider (20.67% Whiff%) and changeup (19.67% Whiff%) represented put away pitches, giving him the repertoire to carry a K/9 in the range of a strikeout per inning.
He’s never going to be a significant source of groundballs, with a 1.07 GO/AO over his minor league career (0.91 in the Majors last season). However pitching in Oakland does he really need to be? The ballpark is going to help to suppress home runs, though that does give him a little bit of a home/road split:
Obviously he’s not quite as bad as that road number indicates, though he will be a better play when taking the mound at home. It’s something to keep in mind, but he’s not going to be an unusable starter away from home.
You can argue that he’s not as good as last season’s mark indicates, considering his minor league career 3.6 BB/9. It’s fair, but at 25-years old it’s also possible that he’s simply figured things out. As it is he was solid all season long, but borderline elite in the second half (2.69 BB/9 in the first half, 1.97 in the second). With the strikeout rate rising, all he needs to do is post a number in the realm of his first half mark to be successful.
180.0 IP, 11 W, 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 170 K (8.50 K/9), 52 BB (2.60 BB/9)
Manaea is going to be a must start option at home, with the potential to be an above average option regardless of where he’s pitching. While the upside may not be as high as some of the other “under-the-radar options”, he easily should be a Top 50 starter with Top 30 potential. Don’t overlook him on draft day.
Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, MILB.com, Baseball Reference
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