This is the biggest drop in stock we've seen in a long time. Sean Manaea went from possible 1.1 candidate to possible second rounder. The best comparison to what has happened to Manaea is Matt Purke back in 2011. Purke fell all the way to the 96th overall pick. I doubt Manaea falls that hard, but it's worth noting that the two situations are similar.
Manaea is tall and has a pretty good frame. You see him and think pitcher's body and you see him as an athlete. However, his frame is showing signs of breaking down. He has a nagging hip injury which can be a cause of concern for pitchers who require mobile hips to get the most of out of their bodies. He then had to skip his last start of the season with a shoulder injury. That sets up a lot of fear for organizations to risk millions in him, and I shouldn't have to describe why.
Before the season started, his mechanics were a cause for concern. Now you know why. His mechanics are very stressful on his body and the body is showing it. He gets his plant knee extended quickly and make his hip control all of his balance and absorb all of the rotational forces in his delivery. Then the elbow never has much flexion in it and kind of long arms the ball. With his elbow so extended, the moment arm of the forces are farther out and requires his rotator cuff to work harder along with the other internal rotators to work harder to turn his arm over. That is why you are seeing shoulder problems. The near straight elbow in a large part of his delivery puts extra stress on his elbow as well. Despite all of these issues, the delivery is surprisingly easy and smooth. He does it well, but it just doesn't put his body in a good position.
Despite that, the stuff can be impressive. Great fastball velocity in the low to mid-90's for a lefty. He has a slider that some grade out a future plus and changeup up that can future grades as high as above-average. The problem is that is built off of one impressive summer in the Cape. Watching him this year, it's hard to project any of his off-speed pitches as that high of grades. He showed in the summer, so the potential is there, however, the track record says the opposite is more likely.
Dominant LOOGY or middle average middle reliever. He has a fastball from the left side that will play. But the other pitches are significant question marks. Hard to view him as a possible pitcher who can face both right-handed and left-handed hitters with just a fastball if the other's turn into get-me-over type pitches.
I'm going to be realistic and say middle of the rotation. However, the highly unlikely yet possible ceiling is a front-line pitcher. If he can get his mechanics cleaned up a good bit and regain the sharpness of his slider, he's #3. If the changeup really comes around gets to be above-average, I'll hang at #2 on him.
Projected Draft Round
I wish I knew. I really do. But it's hard to know right now. A lot of respected sites still have him ranked in the top 20. Several mocks have him in the first round. Several mocks have him in the second round. Several experts are saying he's very likely to drop to the second. He has a huge range in which he could be drafted. So be prepared to see his name be surprised with him anywhere.
Will He Sign?
He's advised by Scott Boras and we know that Boras is not afraid to advise juniors to attend college for their senior season. However, he usually does it when the prospect stands a very good chance to improve his stock. Manaea has a chance to improve his stock, but I wouldn't call it a good chance. This season has answered many questions about him, but they weren't good answers. He would have to completely turn a ton of heads to rebuild his stock. He wouldn't be able to have a single hiccup in injuries and he would have to have a very good senior year. I think he'll sign, but it's going to be a late signing date and significantly less than what he thought he'd get at the beginning of the spring.
He's not as polished as, say, Mark Appel or even Ryne Stanek, but a southpaw who was up to 96 mph on the Cape is going to get a lot of attention.
He complements the plus fastball with a hard slurve that's very effective. He doesn't have as good a feel for pitching as the top two college arms on this list, but a 6-foot-5 lefty with that kind of arm strength had many flocking to the Midwest in 2013.
Overall, he is more raw then I expected. His delivery isn't easy. He seems a bit awkward in his delivery at times. The arm is there and the slider shows a ton of potential. The change needs a lot of work. The smaller stuff will come with work and time. I see a guy with a big arm and enough stamina to be a starter. I see a guy with the stuff to be a reliever, though. The overall package, right now, isn't good enough to be a top 5 pick. If you want to project and have confidence you can fix the smaller things, he is. If you are looking for the college arm that just needs to face pro hitters, acclimate and move up and take a rotation spot in a year or so, this isn't the guy.
The picture I’ve painted here is of a big, athletic left-hander with plus stuff than could be a #1 overall pick and #1 starter if things go well. Pitching against poor competition at a small northern school and growing into his frame at a late stage make him not quite as polished and with a shorter track record than previous top picks, but scouts raved about Manaea’s Cape League domination, so this isn’t a huge concern.
The athletic gifting, reliance on his fastball and positive arm health indicators along with solid makeup reports are enough for me to make Manaea my top prospect for the 2013 draft. His left-handedness, athleticism and slightly higher upside make up the gap between him and Stanford’s Appel. Manaea isn’t a historic talent--David Price was a superior prospect and I slightly prefer Kevin Gausman to Manaea--but the potential is here for a special pitcher.
Manaea’s velocity quickly tapered off during the start I saw. As I said, he sat 92-93 and bumped to 95 in the first inning but his second time through the order Manaea’s fastball ticked down to 90/91 before finishing around 87/88 by the end of his start. What’s impressive is that his fastball still misses bats even at such a reduced velocity thanks to his height, long levers, and fastball command. The scout I spoke with mentioned that Manaea’s future role on the mound will be determined by his ability to sustain his velocity and the development of his secondaries.