Imitation is flattery: Manoah replicates SWR

March 4th, 2021

TAMPA -- The Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect, right-hander Alek Manoah, has earned early praise through Spring Training, and showed why on Wednesday night against the Yankees.

Facing some of New York’s top hitters, Manoah hammered away with his fastball, averaging 96.7 mph and topping out at 97.8 mph. It wasn’t the strikeout of Giancarlo Stanton that stuck out to Manoah after his two scoreless innings in the 4-1 loss, though. It was a nine-pitch battle with Aaron Hicks just prior to that.

Down 3-1 in the count to Hicks, Manoah pumped four straight fastballs and he wasn’t getting anywhere.

“I kept throwing the heater inside and he kept fouling it off,” Manoah explained. “[Catcher Danny] Jansen and his experience, he called a slider. I was feeling really good about that heater inside. I was like, ‘I know I’m going to break through and he’s going to miss it.’ When [Jansen] threw the slider down, I felt really good about it. I made a really good pitch on the outer half and kind of just froze him. I think that was a really good pitch and a really good moment.”

This performance followed Simeon Woods Richardson, the club’s No. 4 prospect, who threw a pair of scoreless innings of his own. Manoah had an eye on his teammate, and had an interesting analogy after the game.

“It’s kind of like golf,” Manoah said. “The first person to putt shows the line. He was showing me the line a little bit. He was showing me to pitch to contact, throw strikes and let the defense work.”

The lost Minor League season came at a tough time for Manoah, who looked sharp in short-season ball with the Vancouver Canadians back in 2019 coming out of the Draft. There’s still some development ahead for the big right-hander, but he’s not lacking confidence on the mound or off of it.

“I’ve got heart, man,” Manoah said, detailing his strengths as a pitcher. “I go out there and I give it everything I’ve got and I’ve got endurance. I’m built for the long run. I’m going to give you everything I’ve got and I’m going to give it to you for a long time.”

Defense an early highlight

Chavez Young made the best defensive play of the spring for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the second inning, and it might be hard to top. On a sinking line drive from Gary Sánchez, Young raced in from center in the direction of the shortstop position and fully extended for the diving catch to end the inning.

“He told me before the game, he said ‘Hey, I got you today,’” starter Woods Richardson said after the game. “The ball finds you every time. As soon as he said it, he goes and dives in the gap and makes a great play.”

Young reached a speed of 29.8 feet per second on the play, and for context, 30 ft/sec is what Statcast considers to be “elite” speed. The 23-year-old Bahamian is one of the organization’s better defensive outfield prospects and has speed to burn, so this could be a big season for Young when he opens in the upper Minors. Just two days ago, Young made another great catch as a right fielder, racing into the gap to rob the Pirates’ Cole Tucker of extras.

“Our defense has been outstanding so far during Spring Training, and that’s our focus,” said manager Charlie Montoyo, “to get better defensively. So far, so good.”


• Right fielder Josh Palacios made an outstanding defensive play in the first inning on a scorching liner off the bat of Aaron Judge. Ranging back towards the wall, Palacios reached up and made the grab in a full sprint to rob Judge of extra bases before crashing into the wall. Palacios also added a hard-hit double.

• In what could be a sign of things to come, the Yankees deployed a heavy shift to the right side of the infield against Rowdy Tellez. 

• Left-hander Nick Allgeyer had a tough outing, allowing a pair of home runs and a double that fell just shy of being a third. The 25-year-old has been durable and productive in the Minor Leagues, though, and has made some strides since he was last on the mound in 2019, so he’ll have more opportunities.

 • Santiago Espinal ripped a double down the left-field line with an exit velocity of 100.2 mph. Joe Panik is still the favorite to win that reserve infield job, but it’s very easy to envision Espinal as part of this roster for multiple stretches in 2021 given his versatility.

 • The Blue Jays’ highest exit velocity of the day? Catching prospect Gabriel Moreno, who ranks No. 8 in the system, with a 104.5-mph lineout. The buzz around Moreno is only growing, both within the organization and around the league.