DETROIT -- As late as Wednesday afternoon, the 2016 MLB draft appeared devoid of certainty. Some last minute information ironed out the question marks, and the Detroit Tigers headed into the draft with confidence they'd land right-handed prep pitcher Matt Manning at No 9.
The Tigers have scouted Manning heavily since 2015. They first got a look at the 18-year-old flame-thrower in the summer and throughout the fall. They doubled down on their scouting of him this spring, which included bringing Manning to Detroit for a workout during which he reached 98 mph.
Hard-throwing righties are the Tigers' specialty, and Manning is no different. But he's a two-sport athlete, who plays both baseball and basketball -- the latter for a longer stretch of time. He's noted for his personal and athletic maturity, despite his young age, with a scholarship to Loyola Marymount for both sports if he opted not to sign.
Manning also didn't begin playing baseball until his junior year of high school, drawing concerns that he will take longer to develop as a player if he indeed signs with a team. But after scouting him since last summer, scouting director Scott Pleis said the Tigers feel there's no concern regarding his development timetable because of the fact he's a two-sport player.
Because Manning is already 6'6 and only 18, it generally gives pause that a tall, thin pitcher will have an inability to repeat his delivery for strikes. That hasn't been a problem for the youngster and because he could still grow into his body more, he could pack on additional muscle for an even sturdier frame.
Perhaps most improved since the team began scouting him last year has been Manning's breaking ball. The fastball command is already there and he's only improving on locating it over the plate and along the edges for strikes. Less known is the changeup, still a developing pitch but it's played well from what the team has seen.
"Obviously it'll be improving and getting better all the time, like all his pitches, but with his plus fastball and the breaking ball, sometimes these high school kids don't throw their changeups that much because they don't need to," Pleis said. "But the way he (throws) it, he'll have no problems with developing that pitch."
The biggest factor attached to Manning is the signability. Manning was said to be asking for a higher signing bonus to keep him away from a commitment to Loyola, and unless a team could match what he'd wanted it would make signing him difficult.
The Tigers factored that in, and they knew going in what the going rate was for Manning (signing bonuses aren't something the team is willing to divulge just yet). That's not an afterthought regardless of the draft pick or the year anyway, but in Manning's case it was especially important to have a solid figure.
Despite what is sure to be a high signing bonus attached to Manning, the organization doesn't anticipate it will affect how they draft later down the line. The Tigers won't pick again until the fourth round, at No. 115, but their future selection decisions won't be altered as a result of the bonus attached to Manning. For now, the Tigers are just happy to have gotten the pitcher they had originally wanted.