In the recent past, the MLB draft has been the same story for Detroit Tigers fans: no high picks, no great draftees, and no hope of decent prospects left in the system come August 1. This year figures to be different. The silver lining of an otherwise painful 2015 season is the No. 9 overall pick in a draft where there are less certainties than ever before, or so it would seem. General manager Al Avila is in a fantastic spot to grab some high-end talent.
One of the most predicted selections in various mock drafts is Matt Manning, a product of Sheldon High School in California. Manning stands 6'6 and weighs in at 185 pounds. While that may be enough to make above average men look short, he is utterly dwarfed by his father, Rich, who is a massive 6'11 and played two seasons in the NBA.
The younger Manning is a right-handed pitcher that specializes in throwing fastballs. Hard, hard fastballs. Are you really surprised that this is the player the Tigers may be targeting? I certainly am not. In fact, Manning's entire profile fits the bill of a generic Tigers prospect. Check out how MLB.com summed him up.
Manning was up to 96-97 mph with his fastball in early outings. He combines that with hard, power curve that has very good bit to it. His changeup will be his third pitch, but he's shown some feel for it and it should be a viable option in the future
Mike Axisa of River Avenue Blues agrees and expands upon that description in this explanation of his skill set.
Manning is the classic "dream big" high school pitcher. He’s an excellent athlete with a loose arm who did not start pitching full-time until his junior year. During that time he’s upped his fastball from 87-89 mph into the 92-94 mph range, and the heater plays faster because he gets so much extension. He’s run his fastball as high as 96-97 mph in short outings during showcase events. Manning can spin a hard curveball in the upper-70s but the pitch lacks consistency.
Amazin' Avenue's Steve Sypa offered more on the young righthander.
Manning throws from a three-quarters arm slot and uses a leg kick for deception. He also throws across his body, and as a result, sometimes gets too rotational as he follows through, landing too closed and spinning over his front side. This sometimes causes him to lose his release point and control in the process. However, with more physical and baseball development, that can be corrected.
With a three-quarters arm slot and a cross-body pitching delivery, Manning has a deceptive motion that is paired with a leg kick that does nothing to hurt that cause. Also, his easy delivery has a natural fluidness that should allow him start long-term. He has played extremely well so far this summer, pitching to the tune of a 1.91 ERA. He has struck out 77 batters through just 40 1/3 innings.
There are only two major concerns with Manning. The first is signability. Manning is said to have a high price tag, and with a limited overall bonus pool, the Tigers may not be able to pay what it takes to pry the Loyola Marymount commit away from his school of choice. This is a common concern with high school players, though, and most prep players taken in the first round sign a professional contract.
The other is pretty standard for pitchers in the Tigers organization: developing an effective, or even usable changeup. Manning's lack of a good changeup is excusable; it is something most high schoolers don't need, and, therefore, don't use. However, as a professional, a starter must have a changeup to keep hitters off his fastball, no matter how electric. There is no way around that. It would be nice if a prospect in the system had a changeup, and with this high a pick, choosing another player who has just that might be a possibility.
While he might not be the perfect choice, there is no such thing in this draft class. There is no Mike Trout, no Bryce Harper, and no sure-fire future superstar. The most we can hope for is the best option out there, the best infusion of talent into the system, and Manning might be that player when the Tigers are on the clock.
Editor's note: Please welcome Jacob to the BYB staff! He will be providing draft and minor league coverage in the coming weeks.