Left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea‘s road to playing in the Oakland Athletics’ organization as well as this year’s Arizona Fall League All-Star game on Saturday had been long and painful. Yet he’s made it through. Although A’s vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has said he has no plans to rush Manaea to the majors “just to fill a hole” in the starting rotation Manaea is MLB ready and still could be called up sometime during the 2016 season.
Raised in Indiana, he had to transfer high schools after his junior year in order to be able to qualify for a NCAA college program. He played so well for the Indiana State Sycamores, he was considered a round one pick in 2013 and was even scouted by the Houston Astros, who then held the number one overall pick.
However, Manaea suffered a hip injury and at first he didn’t realize the seriousness of it. The injury led to changes in his mechanics that caused him to have some shoulders soreness. Both injuries (although the shoulder injury was minor) made most scouts shy away. Suddenly Manaea wasn’t considered a first rounder anymore. That news likely wasn’t easy for a pitcher who could have gone first overall.
Yet, the Kansas City Royals still saw potential in Manaea, regardless of the hip and shoulder issues. The Royals selected Manaea in the 34th round of the 2013 draft and signed him to the second highest signing bonus ever given to a pick outside of the first round, $3.55 million. Kansas City still signed him even knowing that three days later he would be headed into surgery for his hip and not straight to the baseball field.
Thankfully the surgery was a success and Manaea was able to work on getting his mechanics back to where they were before the hip injury had caused him to make adjustments. The adjustments that had led to and caused his shoulder soreness.
Manaea was back prior to the end of 2014, he started out in a rookie league and quickly made it to High Class-A Wilmington compiling a 3.11 ERA and his average strikeout rate? A whopping 10.7 batters per nine innings.
In 2015, prior to being traded to Oakland along with pitcher Aaron Brooks in the deal that brought Ben Zobrist to the Royals, Manaea played for four different Royals affiliates. In Double-A, he put up a 2.66 ERA and averaged 11.2 strike outs per inning. That is pretty incredible.
Upon joining the Atheltics, Manaea was put on the team’s Double-A affiliate Midland RockHounds. He went 6-0 in seven starts for Midland, posting a 1.90 ERA and struck out an average of 11.2 batters per nine innings pitched.
In the Arizona Fall League, Manaea hasn’t had the best luck in the ERA department but he is still striking out batters like crazy. In just 4 starts he postsed a 5.63 ERA but that could be attributed to other issues such as poor defense (the Mesa Solar Sox have won just five games so far this fall), still he did put the men on base. Manaea struck out 17 batters in 16 innings pitched and only allowed four walks. It almost seems to me that he may have a pitch that he needs to finish developing – the one that give up the hits – and once he does he’ll turn into a very good if not elite Major League pitcher.
Despite his ERA, Manaea is on the Arizona Fall League Eastern Team All-Star roster. Sean Manaea has had a long road to the majors and he is almost there. He had to change high schools in order to qualify for the NCAA, he battled through injuries and still has one of the highest strikeouts per nine innings statistics that I have ever seen.
The Royals had faith in him and the Athletics do too. Manaea appears to have had enough faith in himself to keep competing and succeeding despite his injuries.
It’s likely he will spend most of his time this summer playing for the Oakland A’s Triple-A affiliate The Nashville Sounds. Beane has pretty much made it clear that he wants to take it slow with his prospects and really help them develop before throwing them into a Major League game.
Still, we may see Sean Manaea in the majors sometime next season. He will definitely be up in September, unless there is a significant injury to a member of the A’s starting staff prior to the September roster expansion. One thing is guaranteed, however, Manaea’s long journey to the big leagues will be over by 2017.