What do we make of a pitcher named Manaea?
How do we take his stats and pin him down?
How do we find the words that judge Manaea?
A Lamb-Duffy-Dwyer? A Hochevar? an ace?
-to Maria (from The Sound of Music)
Sean Manaea last year’s top pick (in the modern draft, I classify by money instead of round) for the Royals has pitched 13 games and 53.1 innings for the Royals A+ affiliate Wilmington. So, what if anything can we make of his first half season as a pro?
First and most important, he’s healthy and actually pitching. This combined with early reports that have his stuff back close to pre-injury level is enough to place him on many prospect lists. Second, he can strike out a lot of people. His k/9 is 12.32 and his k% is 29.4. That is elite territory for a starting pitching prospect.
However, after that his stats go from meh to bad. (4.56 BB/9, 3.77 FIP. 4.89 ERA, 0.397 BABIP, 1.65 WHIP) At this point there isn’t reason to panic about the other stats, but we can’t promote him to elite status either. There could be many reasons he isn’t dominating A+ ball. Kyle Zimmer didn’t dominate his first half of A+ and then in the second half he became dominant until being shut down due to injury.
Of course in the end, time will tell what becomes of Sean Manaea. But, having followed his first pro season, I’ve been left with two impressions about his poor stats. The first impression, he has shown a potential Duffy-esque quality for pitch in-efficiency. The second impression is that he has shown a Hochevar-esque quality of being done in by the big inning. But, I wanted to see if the underlying stats agreed with my impressions.
First, I wanted to see what the stats say about Manaea’s pitch efficiency. He has yet to pitch more than 5 innings this year-although he has started a sixth inning. But in the minor leagues and coming off an injury, an innings limit is to be expected. But, what about pitches per inning? Unfortunately, in A+ ball pitch counts are rare, plus you have the occasional minimum pitch counts. (I.e 3 pitches for a strikeout and 4 pitches for a walk.) There are only 6 games with trustworthy pitch counts. But in those 6 games, he has a pitches per inning of 19.0. Sample size issues and missing data aside, his pitch efficiency should at least be on the watch list as he moves forward.
Second, I wanted to see if he was a good pitcher that was done in by the big inning. 75% of the runs he has allowed have come in his worst inning of each outing. This includes a 6 run inning and a couple of 4 run innings. But it also includes three 1 run innings and a couple of 2 run innings that are hardly huge blow-ups. Also included is an inning where he left with the bases-loaded and 1 out, but the relief core allowed all three runs to score. (In fact, the Wilmington relief core hasn’t done him any favors, allowing 6 of 10 inherited runners to score, 17% of his total runs allowed.) Of course maybe he has been saved from worse stats by a quick hook. 39% of his runs have scored in his last inning of work, including the 6 inherited runs that scored after he left.
So what does this mean? Does he have Hochevar-itis? Heck did Hochevar even have Hochevar-it is, or was it just a convenient narrative? Can we even judge less than 55 innings? I don’t know. It’s been a first half in the minors that has mostly disappointed. So it would be nice to have Manaea dominating and rocketing up the prospect ranking, instead of the current mixed results. But, Manaea is what he is, and what we make of him will change over time. This in the end is just a partial snapshot of his first year in the minors.