Alek Manoah

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Alek Isaac Manoah

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Biographical Information[edit]

Pitcher Alek Manoah was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2019 amateur draft, with the 11th overall pick, out of the West Virginia University. In his final season with the Mountaineers, he had gone 9-4, 2.08 as a starter, with a K/W ratio of 144/27 in 108 1/3 innings. He pitched briefly for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League that summer, logging 17 innings in 6 starts with an 0-1 record and an ERA of 2.65.

Alek then spent all of 2020 at the Blue Jays' alternative training site, working out with major league players and other top prospects as the minor leagues were shutdown. In 2021, he received an invitation to spring training and impressed everyone with his stuff, to the point that some were calling for him to start the year in the Show in spite of his minimal professional experience, given that his main rival for the title of top pitching prospect in the organization, Nate Pearson had to start the year on the disabled list. He was send all the way to AAA and in his first three starts with the Buffalo Bisons was as dominant as dominant can be: he went 3-0, with an ERA of 0.50, allowing just 1 run on 7 hits and 3 walks in 18 innings, while striking out 27. With Pearson having failed in his one start with the major league Jays, and the team needing to make-do with a band-aid solution every time the fifth starter's spot came up, Alek's numbers were impossible to ignore, as he was clearly too strong for AAA baseball. On May 24th, they announced that he was being called up to make his major league debut in the next few days.

His debut was delayed by 24 hours as the game of May 26th was rained out, so he ended up starting the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees at New Yankee Stadium on May 27th. He was just the second player from the 2019 draft to reach the majors, following Andrew Vaughn who had done so at the start of the season. He was issued the unconventional (for a pitcher) uniform number 6, which is the one he had worn in the amateur ranks. He pitched 6 excellent shutout innings, before turning the ball over to Jordan Romano with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of back-to-back homers by Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette in the 3rd. Romano retired the Yankees in order in the 7th to close out the win. While he wasn't as dominant in his next few starts, he did give the Jays good performances to consolidate his place in the starting rotation, as they won three his his first four starts, and their lone loss came by a score of 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox. On June 19th, however, in spite of facing the lowly Baltimore Orioles, he gave up 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings and was ejected after plunking Maikel Franco just after surrendering back-to-back homers to Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart. The umpires clearly thought the pitch was not an accident and he was also assessed a five-game suspension, which he appealed, unsuccessfully. On July 2nd, he recorded his second win - the bullpen had cost him a couple more - in an 11-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. In that game, he tied a team record with seven consecutive strikeouts at one point and pitched 7 full innings for the first time. On September 13th, again against the Rays, he made it 8 full innings, during which he did not walk anyone, allowed but one hit and struck out 10 in a truly dominant performance. The 8-1 win improved his record to 6-2. He turned in another brilliant game in his last start of the season, on October 2nd against the Orioles, with the Jays in a must-win situation to stay alive in the wild card race: he allowed just 1 hit in 7 innings, striking out 10, to lead his team to a 10-2 win. He finished the season with a record of 9-2, 3.22 in 20 starts, with 127 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings and was named the American League Rookie of the Month for September/October.

He picked up right where he left off in 2022, as he won all four of his starts in April, going at least six innings all four games and putting up an ERA of 1.44. Going back to his rookie year, the Blue Jays had been winners in his last 12 starts, and he had personally picked up the win in the last 8 of these. Both of these streaks were close to the team records held by Hall of Famer Roy Halladay, with 14 consecutive winning starts and 11 wins, in 2003. Both streaks ended on May 3rd, but not through any fault of his: hegave up just one run in 6 innings in a start against the Yankees and left with the score tied, only to see the bullpen and defense fall completely apart in the final three innings as the game ended as a 9-1 win for New York. He was named to play in the All-Star Game for the first time, and then finished the season with a flourish as he went 4-0, 0.88 in September to help the Blue Jays clinch the top wild card slot in the American League. That resulted in his being named the AL Pitcher of the Month for the first time of his career. He finished the season at 16-7, with a 2.24 ERA in 196 2/3 innings and 180 strikeouts. That performance had established him as the team's undisputed ace. However, he had a rare blip in the first game of the Wild Card Series against the Seattle Mariners on October 7th, as he gave up 4 runs in 5 1/3 innings to be charged with Toronto's 4-0 loss.

He seemed to completely lose his efficiency in the first weeks of the 2023 season, starting on Opening Day, March 30th, when he gave up 5 runs on 9 hits in 3 1/3 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals. He was not involved in the decision, and it looked like just a blip when he followed that with 7 innings of one-hit ball against the Kansas City Royals in a 3-0 win on April 5th, but it turned out to be his only win in his first 9 starts. His ERA stood at 4.88 at the end of April, and he then lost his first three starts in May to fall to 1-4, 5.40 after a loss to the Yankees at home on May 15th. In that last game, he allowed a career-high 7 walks in 4 innings, and he was walking 6.4 batters per 9 innings, well above his rate of 2.3 the year before. His hit rate was also well above what he had posted in his first two seasons, even though it did not seem that there was anything physically wrong with him. Those who were hoping for a turnaround in June were disappointed when he was chased from his June 5th start against the Houston Astros in the 1st inning after recording just one out - the shortest outing of his career. Mauricio Dubon got a hit on his first pitch and things went from bad to worse, with Corey Julks hitting his first major league grand slam a few batters later to make it 6-0. He gave up two more hits before giving way to Jay Jackson. He was charged with the 11-4 loss, and his ERA rose to 6.36 after the nightmarish outing. At that point, the Blue Jays brass threw up its collective hands and decided to send the once dominant hurler to the Florida Complex League in hope he would be able to solve whatever problem was affecting him while away from the pressure of major league games. After working out at the Jays' spring training complex, he made a start for the FCL Blue Jays on June 27th, but it went horribly, as he gave up 11 runs in 1 2/3 innings. The Jays then decided to have him throw for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the AA Eastern League, with the hope that an atmosphere closer to a major league game would help him focus. It worked in his first outing on July 2nd, as he struck out 10 opponents in 5 innings and only gave up 1 run on 3 hits. This was the first ray of hope in weeks in his case and he Jays immediately announced that he would be back with the team to start against the Detroit Tigers on July 7th. And, lo and behold, that start went well as he allowed just one run in six innings to record just his second win of the season as Toronto defeated Detroit, 12-2. More importantly, he did not a walk a single batter, when control had been his biggest bugbear thus far. But, the improvement did not last as he made 5 more starts, going 1-2, without ever showing dominating form. His last appearance for the Jays was on August 10th, after which he was optioned to AAA, then was placed on the inactive list in early September as his strained relationship with the team came to a head - a result of neither side understanding how the supremely talented pitcher had completely fallen apart. He finished the year at 3-9, 5.97 in 19 starts, with a 79/59 K/W ratio in 87 1/3 innings.

Heading into 2024, both Manoah and the Jays hoped that the past year had been a bad nightmare and that things would fall back into place, although no one was certain what to expect even if the talk was optimistic.

Alek's older brother, Erik Manoah, has pitched in the minor leagues.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL All-Star (2022)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 1 (2022)

Further Reading[edit]

  • Nick Ashbourne: "Alek Manoah's rough start to 2023 is almost unprecedented in recent history", Yahoo! Sports, May 16, 2023. [1]
  • Nick Ashbourne: "Blue Jays send Alek Manoah to Florida Complex League in search of total reset: The Blue Jays made the drastic move to send Manoah to the lowest level of the minor leagues Tuesday", Yahoo! Sports, June 6, 2023. [2]
  • Thomas Hall: "Blue Jays’ Alek Manoah pulled in first inning after disastrous start vs. Astros: Alek Manoah's struggles went from bad to worse on Monday.", Yahoo! Sports, June 5, 2023. [3]
  • Thomas Hall: "Alek Manoah looks sharp in victorious return to Blue Jays rotation: The Blue Jays got the win in Alek Manoah's return, with the big right-hander tossing six innings of one-run ball", Yahoo! Sports Canada, July 7, 2023. [4]
  • Keegan Matheson: "Coming off '22 success, Manoah aiming even higher", mlb.com, February 19, 2023. [5]
  • Keegan Matheson: "Manoah ready to flip script on '23, reclaim leading role", mlb.com, February 15, 2024. [6]
  • Gregory Strong (The Canadian Press): "Blue Jays ace Alek Manoah soaking up all the info he can at spring training", Yahoo! Sports, February 19, 2023. [7]

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