Who IS This Guy?
He might have the highest ceiling of any pitching prospect in this year's draft class. A few years ago Sean Manaea was a raw high school kid with bad grades and no first-round aspirations, but now at age 21 he's in the conversation to become the first lefty pitcher drafted No. 1 overall since David Price in 2007.
At 6'5" and 230 lbs, Manaea has the ability to reach the mid-90s from the left side, making him a rare specimen. He has progressed rapidly in three seasons at Indiana State University, adding new pitches to a repertoire that essentially consisted of onlya fastball when he first arrived on campus. He reportedly learned a split-change from a teammate late in his sophomore season, right before participating in the Cape Cod League, where an incredible showing sealed his billing as an elite draft prospect.
Pitching in that collegiate summer league last year, Manaea struck out 85 hitters in 57 1/3 innings and walked just seven while registering a microscopic 1.22 ERA. He received the CCL's Outstanding Prospect Award, which in the past has gone to such players as Matt Wieters, Mark Teixeira and Billy Wagner.
Manaea is following up that sterling performance with his best season yet at Indiana State. Through 12 starts, he's 5-4 with a 1.47 ERA and 93-to-27 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings.
Who Could He Be?
With his size and velocity, Manaea offers what baseball evaluators crave. A scout quoted in one article
marveled: "You really don't see lefties throw that hard. They're considered freaks and when you see someone projectable to be huge, like him, that's what you're looking for."
He's grown so much -- both physically and mentally -- in his three years at college that it's difficult to put a cap on Manaea's upside. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve certain aspects of his game, he's got everything it takes to be a fast-tracked, top-of-rotation MLB starter.
How Soon Could He Be Playing In Target Field?
The history of collegiate pitchers taken in the top five picks portends an accelerated timetable. Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen and Trevor Bauer, who were taken successively with the top three picks in the 2011 draft, are all either in the majors or knocking on the door two years later. Kevin Gausman, the LSU right-hander who went fourth overall last year, is already in Double-A and dominating.
Then again, Manaea can hardly be described as polished. He's still refining his secondary pitches and is said to have some issues with repeating his delivery and controlling the run game. His estimated time of arrival is probably a bit further off than fellow highly ranked collegiate hurlers Jonathan Gray and Mark Appel, but 2014 is not out of the question if things shake out right.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Messed Up Because…
Manaea has all the physical attributes needed to become a dominant big-league pitcher but there are some questions regarding his personality and maturity. He's an extremely laid-back guy who nearly missed eligibility for college due to poor high school grades, which he admits
were "due to pure laziness." He's come a long way since then, but will he be able to embrace the work ethic required to become an elite player at the pro level?
Additionally, Manaea has exhibited some issues this year that have dropped his stock a bit. Hip soreness caused him to miss some time and, while he flashed 95 mph heat in the Cape Cod League last summer, he's been clocked more frequently in the low 90s this season. Velocity drops are always somewhat alarming for a player his age.
If The Twins Draft This Guy, They Nailed It Because…
The southpaw profiles as exactly what the rebuilding Twins need: a high-upside arm with the potential to be major-league ready pretty quickly. Although he isn't as advanced as some of the other pitchers available, Manaea has all the traits you'd like to see in a top draft pick and would be an excellent addition to Minnesota's suddenly burgeoning core of pitching prospects.