The Situation: Following the demotion of Eric Surkamp, the A’s were reportedly considering promoting either Jesse Hahn or Sean Manaea. A blister issue for Hahn helped force their hand, as they’ve called up the top-50 prospect, Manaea. Manager Bob Melvin has already indicated that Manaea should be with the team for “the long haul,” so this should not be viewed in a similar light to the recent promotion/demotion of Rays’ prospect Blake Snell.
Background: Manaea was one of the more polarizing figures within his draft class, with a hip injury shooting him down draft boards. The Royals took Hunter Dozier early and waited to see if Manaea would fall to their next pick, which he did. Last year he was moved to Oakland in in exchange for Ben Zobrist. Manaea only threw 74.1 innings last year, which raises the question of how many innings Oakland will let him pitch this year.
Scouting Report: The left-handed Manaea is an interesting pitcher to scout. He employs a three-pitch mix from a low-three-quarters arm slot, which has enhanced effectiveness due to the extension his 6-foot-5 frame grants him. He can be especially tough on same-side hitters due to the deception in his delivery, but its high-maintenance qualities can cause difficulty in regards to repetition. While there are a lot of moving parts, his delivery is not high-effort.
His fastball will sit in the low-to-mid 90s, usually working 91-94 mph, while showing the ability to bump as high as 96 in the past. It shows above-average movement with downhill action, but can lack consistency when he opens up his delivery. His best secondary offering is a sharp slider that features tilt and bite, and grades out as plus when its on. It plays well off the fastball and he’ll often use it as a chase pitch, starting it in the zone and letting it break out. He can and will get inconsistent with its release point, but he can survive at the major-league level while refining this aspect. He shows feel for a potential average change, though his inconsistent mechanics can affect the quality of the pitch. At its best it features moderate arm-side run, but more often it’s a fringe-average offering that is best served as a change of pace from the aforementioned pitches.
Immediate Big League Future: Manaea is a tough pitcher to peg, with issues both past (health) and present (command) making his range of immediate outcomes relatively wide. It can be difficult to ascertain exactly how a pitcher with intermittent bouts of command issues will produce, as Manaea certainly has the stuff to get away with some mistakes. It’s an open question as to whether, and how often, major-league hitters will punish them, though. The full package could play as a mid-rotation starter at present, with the upside of slightly more than that if he can tighten up the command of his off-speed pitches, and repeat his delivery more consistently. Either way, this is a clear talent upgrade in the short term, as the A’s bide their time until Henderson Alvarez, Jesse Hahn, and company can get healthy. –Grant Jones
Fantasy Impact: With veterans Sonny Gray and Rich Hill the lone starters entrenched in the current Athletics rotation, there is a high degree of probability that the 24-year-old southpaw remains in Oakland for the remainder of the 2016 campaign. With Jesse Hahn poised to return from the disabled list in the near future as well, it’s likely that the Indiana State product’s turns will come at the expense of either Chris Bassitt or Kendall Graveman down the line. Regardless, the fact that Manaea is unlikely to book a flight to Nashville ever again makes him arguably the most intriguing gamble in redraft leagues among the plethora of pitching prospect promotions this past week.
Aside from the obvious benefits of pitching in a cavernous home ballpark, Manaea is a virtual lock to provide a bevvy of strikeouts for his prospective fantasy owners given his minor-league track record. He’s fanned over a batter per inning at every stop between two organizations since 2014, racking up 257 strikeouts in just 214 career innings. In three Triple-A starts earlier this month, Manaea struck out 21 batters in just 18 innings (10.5 K/9), while also displaying pinpoint control (2.0 BB/9).
Ranked a top-50 fantasy prospect by Bret Sayre (#42) and Ben Carsley (#46) on their pre-season Top 101 lists, Manaea warrants a double-digit bid ($10-$15 FAAB) in 12-team mixed leagues and an even more substantial investment in deeper formats given his lofty strikeout potential. —George Bissell
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