There were numerous good options within the Detroit Tigers’ minor league system this season. However, right-handed starting pitcher Matt Manning stood out from the pack, and on Friday, Baseball America named him their 2019 Player of the Year for the Tigers’ minor league system.
In Manning’s third full season as a professional, the 21-year-old stood out from an excellent set of teammates with the Double-A Erie SeaWolves through a combination of outstanding performance and durability. That Manning was dominant in the Eastern League was expected based on his superb 2018 campaign. He stood out from notables like Casey Mize and Alex Faedo in both his performance and in his continued record of durability and good health.
Across 128 innings so far this season, Manning holds a 2.46 ERA backed by a 2.59 FIP. He is the Eastern League strikeout leader with 142 punchouts and a 28.2 percent strikeout rate, and has issued just 37 free passes.
His ERA is the fifth lowest across all Double-A leagues, with everyone ahead of him also older than Manning by a year or more. Only two starting pitchers in Double-A have a better strikeout rate. Ian Anderson, a highly regarded starting pitching prospect in the Atlanta Braves’ system, is the only 21-year-old on Manning’s level of performance.
With two starts likely remaining in his regular season, Manning has already thrown 128 innings in over 23 starts. In 2018, he threw 117 2⁄3 innings across three levels. He should end up with over 140 innings, particularly if the Erie SeaWolves maintain their current playoff position and get some extra work in the Eastern League postseason series. That should set him up for a workload jump well over 150 innings in the 2020 season with the possibility of his first trip to the major leagues likely should his track record of durability go umblemished next season.
Left-hander Tarik Skubal, whose stock as a prospect has skyrocketed this season was Manning’s toughest competition for the award. Skubal’s numbers across seven starts in the Eastern League have been fantastic, posting a 1.85 ERA and a 1.33 FIP. However, Skubal is 22 years old, and spent most of the season at a lower level in the Florida State League.
Baseball America’s report on Manning is unlocked and you can read it here.