Manoah's debut on horizon; just ask Buffalo

May 13th, 2021

Through 2018 and ’19, Blue Jays fans ran impassioned Twitter campaigns calling for the promotion of It didn’t matter if a tweet was about the weather, the first 15 replies would read, “Call up Vlad.”

Now, it’s ’s turn.

The Blue Jays’ No. 6 prospect per MLB Pipeline spent Spring Training making himself the hottest name in Toronto's farm system, and over two starts in Triple-A to open the season, all he’s done is help his case.

In Manoah’s first start of the season, he struck out 12 over six shutout innings, all while tinkering with a new sinker. Wednesday night against Rochester, the hard-throwing right-hander carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and finished off with six shutout frames once again, allowing just one hit and striking out five. He’s thrown just 29 innings in the Minor Leagues, but every time he picks up a baseball, he’s putting pressure on the Blue Jays.

That’s exactly what they want.

“He’s doing what it takes. I was a Triple-A manager for a while. If a player wants to come to the big leagues, they have to push the envelope,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo. “That’s what that kid is doing right now. He’s pitching well, but again, it’s all about development. He’s got to keep pitching and doing what he’s doing.”

Wednesday’s game had someone important in the stands, too: Toronto general manager Ross Atkins. Manoah and Atkins spoke the day prior to his start and the GM’s message was simple: Keep having fun and doing what he’s doing. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Montoyo found it particularly impressive that the young right-hander was able to keep things level with the GM in attendance, too.

“The GM was there and he didn’t try any harder. I’ve been there,” Montoyo said. “I’ve seen a lot of guys that think they want to come to the big leagues, but all of a sudden, the GM gets there, and they just get nervous and don’t pitch the same. Manoah, it doesn’t look like that bothered him.”

Over the past three months, Manoah has changed the question of if he would debut in 2021, to when. Initially, a late-season debut was potentially on the table, if he had innings left and was still throwing hard. Manoah is clearly pushing up that timeline, though, and given the ongoing need in the Blue Jays’ rotation, it’s difficult to overlook his name.

The spotlight right now is on Manoah’s success, but a cornerstone of development in the Minor Leagues is failure. Manoah hasn’t experienced that yet in professional ball, but there’s value when prospects struggle and then learn to adapt and overcome. If a young player struggles for the very first time in Major League Baseball and is suddenly trying to adjust against Jacob deGrom or Mike Trout, that’s a little harder than learning to adjust in the Minors.

In a perfect world, perhaps Manoah battles through a few starts and comes out the other side a more polished pitcher, but what if those struggles don’t come and these starts keep rolling?

“That’s not my decision to make. I just go out there and compete as hard as I can,” Manoah said, toeing the line between saying the right thing and having some fun with it. “That’s what they get paid the big bucks to do, to make those decisions. I’ll leave it in their hands.”

Manoah’s hype has taken the spotlight off other top-ranked starters, especially Blue Jays No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson, the No. 10 prospect in MLB. Pearson recently made his 2021 Blue Jays debut, walked five batters and was quickly shuttled back to Triple-A. He still comfortably outranks Manoah, which Pearson's tools justify, but Manoah is gaining ground on everyone right now, and fast.