In 2016, Manoah's senior year at South Dade High School in Homestead, Florida, he was late in committing to a college.
On November 16, 2015, Alek was announced as a part of the West Virginia University baseball signing class (wvusports.com). Manoah majored in broadcast journalism. He was on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll his freshman year.
Alek is the son of Erik Sr. and Susana Manoah Alek has two siblings. One, brother, Erik, Jr., plays in the Los Angeles Angels organization
Manoah is from baseball territory, Miami, Florida, having played at South Dade Senior High School where he became All-America, and comes from a baseball family, his brother, Erik, playing in the Angels organization.
Manoah speaks Spanish and has four Cuban grandparents. He won a state championship at South Dade High School in 2014, collecting an RBI single in the championship game, while his brother Erik closed out the win in relief after pitching a shutout in the semifinals the previous day.
Alek spent one summer with Chatham in the Cape Cod League, where he was one of the best starters in the league. He went 3-2, 2.70 and led the league with 48 strikeouts in 33.1 innings.
After the 2017 season, Alek was named to the Big 12 All-Freshman Team.
Manoah's older brother Erik was also a pro ballplayer. He was drafted by the Mets out of high school in the 13th round of the 2014 Draft and has pitched in the Minors six seasons.
Manoah entered the 2019 NCAA Tournament Regionals with an 9-3 record and a 1.85 ERA in his 15 starts, including two shutouts. His 135 strikeouts rank fifth among Division 1 pitchers. He was named the unanimous Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.
Manoah was named a semifinalist for both the Dick Howser Trophy (given to the top player in college baseball by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association) and the Golden Spikes Award (presented by USA Baseball to the nation's top amateur player).
Manoah is the first player in West Virginia program history to be named a semifinalist for either award.
Manoah set West Virginia's single-season strikeout record this year, breaking a mark that had stood for over 50 years when he got to 125 K's in his final regular-season start on May 16. The school's previous single-season record was 123 strikeouts by John Radosevich in 1964.
June 2019: The Blue Jays chose Manoah in the first round (#11 overall), out of WVU. He went behind C Adley Rutschman (O's), Bobby Witt Jr. (Royals), Andrew Vaughn (White Sox), JJ Bleday (Marlins), Riley Greene (Tigers), C.J. Abrams, P Nick Lodolo (Reds), Josh Jung (Rangers), C Shea Langeliers (Braves) and Hunter Bishop (Giants).
Alek signed for his slot value of $4,547,500, via scout Coulson Barbiche.
Alek tied righthander Chris Enochs, who was also a No. 11 overall pick in 1997, as the only two first-rounders in WVU Mountaineers' history. Next in line was when the Dodgers drafted righthander Michael Grove in the second round in 2018, and 2014 pick John Means has experienced early success as a rookie lefthander for the Orioles.
In 2019, Alek showed the Blue Jays everything they wanted to see and more. Toronto has followed him since his playing days at South Dade Senior High School in Miami, but it was Manoah’s success in the Cape Cod League the previous summer and in the rotation as a junior at West Virginia this spring that made him the Blue Jays’ first pick in the Draft.
“Alek’s really done a nice job with maintaining his body and his conditioning and strength,” Steve Sanders, Toronto’s director of amateur scouting said. “He’s a really good athlete, especially for a bigger guy. He fields his position well. He simplified his delivery this year a little bit [pitching out of the stretch] and that obviously helped him repeat, which we felt helped with the improved command and control, not just of his fastball but of his secondary pitches.
“We certainly expect all of those things to be factors moving forward, but the combination of his stuff, his athleticism, his feel to pitch, his command and his makeup, we’re really confident in who he is as a person and the work he puts in on and off the field to reach his ceiling as a Major League starter.” (Brudnicki - mlb.com - 6/3/19)
Area scout Coulson Barbiche and regional crosschecker Michael Youngberg kept close tabs on the West Virginia ace, who continually impressed them with a simplified delivery that helped him repeat his mechanics and improve his command.
Manoah's older brother Erik is also a pro ballplayer. He was drafted by the Mets out of high school and has pitched in the Minors since the 2014 season.
He won a state championship at South Dade High School in 2014, collecting an RBI single in the championship game, while his brother Erik closed out the win in relief after pitching a shutout in the semifinals the previous day.
Alek's aspirations for MLB and beyond? "I plan to play 10 years in the big leagues, and then hop in the broadcast booth with Alex Rodriguez," he told the Miami Herald in May 2019. (Adler - mlb.com - 6/3/19)
In 2020, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Manoah as the 5th-best prospect in the Blue Jays' organization. He was at #7 a year later, in 2021.
April 2020 Q&A with William Boor:
Alek Manoah, the Blue Jays’ No. 4 prospect and 2019 1st-round pick, was just getting ready for his first full season of professional baseball before the season was delayed due to the national emergency caused by the coronavirus. While all players would rather be playing, Manoah has been able to look on the bright side of everything happening and use the downtime to better himself off the field.
MLB Pipeline recently caught up with Manoah to discuss the downtime and the eventual 2020 season.
MLB Pipeline: So where are you and what are you doing to stay busy?
Manoah: I’m actually back home in Miami and I’ve got my brother here too. Once they closed the facilities, I stayed in my apartment in Tampa for an extra week because I thought this was going to be quick, but once they started to lock all things down, my best resource is my brother. My brother [Erik Manoah Jr., a right-hander that used to play in the Angels' organization] and I work great together and we do everything together so being able to come home and [have] someone quarantining with me, that’s able to do all the same things that I need to do, that he needs to do as well, that’s been very helpful.
MLB Pipeline: When you’re not working out, how are you and your brother passing the time?
Manoah: I think the biggest thing is there are aspects off the field where this can help you. Sometimes athletes are constantly moving around, going to workouts, meetings and sometimes nutritionally you don’t eat at the same time every day, your routines can get out of whack and not everything is perfect. Now, when you wake up in the morning, you aren’t allowed to leave the house, it’s a perfect time to set a routine. Exactly how many times a day are you going to eat? When are you going to eat? To be consistent everyday is just one way that can benefit you, working on that nutrition side.
The mental side as well. Seven months of the year, you’re not with your family and when you are home, you’re sacrificing family time to train and throw and go to yoga classes and all those kinds of things. I think being able to do all of those things at home. My mom works out with me and my brother, and we’re able to do all that as a family. That really helps the mental side and keeps me positive, especially during times like this when I’m just anxious to throw a baseball against somebody.
MLB Pipeline: You are the first person I’ve talked to who has said this has had a positive effect on their diet.
Manoah: Ha. Yeah, I think it’s really easy where every time you turn on the TV, it’s negative. Every time you go on social media, it’s negative and it’s really hard to stay away from those things because you are at home with not much to do. You see all those negative things and it ruins your vibe for that day, that week and your emotions mess with how you eat and if you’re just negative all day, then everything is going to fall off.
MLB Pipeline: You didn’t throw a ton last year because of your workload at West Virginia, but what were your initial impressions of pro ball?
Manoah: I had the experience of a lifetime, especially in Vancouver. I was able to pitch in great atmospheres. Being in Canada and playing in Canada in front of 7,000 fans on a Tuesday at 1 p.m., it was an electric atmosphere and a really good taste of pro ball.
MLB Pipeline: How would you evaluate yourself as a pitcher? What do you consider your strengths and weaknesses?
Manoah: I would say my strengths are my competitiveness, my mindset and my attitude toward the game. I would say a scouting report, if you were going to face me, you just have to be ready for a dogfight. You have to be ready to work for every run, every pitch because I’m not going to be giving anything away. I attack everything I can … try to get me early in the game because once I get going, it’s going to be really hard, once I get in that rhythm.
MLB Pipeline: What do you want to accomplish in your first full season of pro ball?
Manoah: My biggest goal is to go and have a successful workload. I strive on being a big, durable body. I’m a big guy, I’m a strong guy. I have great endurance in my legs, my arm, and I have a really good attention span. I’m able to focus and dig deep in games. My biggest goal is to be able to go out there, whether I’m on a five-day rotation or a six-day rotation, just be able to make every start and be able to compete every start and give a quality outing every time I’m out there. With that comes a good amount of innings, and I’m a strikeout pitcher so if I can get somewhere between 120 and 150 innings, strike out around 200 batters, those are kind of my goals.
MLB debut (May 27, 2021): Highly regarded pitching prospect Alek Manoah made his debut in storybook fashion — against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
After walking the first batter he faced, DJ LeMahieu, on four pitches, Manoah registered his first strikeout when he got Yankees second baseman Rougned Odor to whiff on a changeup.
While that was a nice moment, Manoah, 23, showed little emotion as he also fanned Aaron Judge in tossing a scoreless first inning. On the other hand, in the stands, Manoah's mom was unable to contain her excitement while watching her son perform.
With every pitch Alek threw in his MLB debut, his mother, Susana, was locked in and along for the ride. She shouted, “Come on, baby!” as her son battled through a four-pitch walk to begin his start. She blew him a kiss—with both hands—as he earned his first strikeout. Roughly 40 friends and family members were part of the reduced-capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium to witness Manoah’s six scoreless innings in the Blue Jays' 2-0 win over the Yankees in the opener of a seven-inning doubleheader. But with the sacrifices Susana has made to help Alek reach that moment, her presence might have been the most special of all.
“I’ve seen my mom not eat dinner to feed me and my brother,” Manoah told Sportsnet after the game. “Those kinds of things, I’ll give her the world; I’ll do anything for her. She’s my inspiration. She teaches me how to work hard every day, she teaches me how to keep going, she teaches me how to compete. Her, my father, my brother, everybody. I couldn’t be more thankful. It’s all for them.”
Manoah put on a show for his boisterous supporters. He struck out seven while allowing only two hits and two walks on 88 pitches. “After those first four pitches to LeMahieu, it was kind of just like, ‘I don’t want to suck,’” Manoah deadpanned. “‘So let’s lock it in right here and let’s start pitching.’”
Manoah then struck out Rougned Odor and Aaron Judge in consecutive at-bats. The punchout of Judge was eye-opening for Manoah, as he saw the former American League Rookie of the Year whiff so hard he dropped to a knee. And then Judge guessed wrong on a 97.3 mph fastball, offering a late half-swing for strike three.
“I was just like, ‘Man, this is fun,’” Manoah said. “He was competing as hard as he can, I was competing as hard as I can and that’s baseball. It was amazing.”
Manoah continued to amaze, finding the strike zone with all four of his pitches to keep the Yankees guessing. Now, here he is in the Major Leagues, a Blue Jays starter with a near-perfect debut. And an army of loved ones to cherish it with.
“For today, I just want to hug my whole family,” Manoah said. “I think that’s what I’m going to enjoy the most, is how many people came out here to see me—called off sick, made excuses, whatever the case may be. They made sure to be here. I think that’s what I’ll remember the most.” (Horrobin - mlb.com - 5/27/2021)
Alek tends to talk about baseball in the abstract. He dances between philosophies, muses on the meaning of it all and peppers you with charismatic catchphrases before dropping in a reminder that the topic all along has been, well, baseball.
Manoah’s physical gifts help. Every bit of 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, with a fastball that reaches into the upper-90s, he passes every eye test. The spring of 2021 and into the early weeks of the Triple-A season, few pitchers in professional baseball were better, as Manoah forced his big league debut well ahead of schedule.
The worry with a prospect making such a meteoric rise, though, is how they’ll handle failure. That’s part of the gig. Most prospects learn how to struggle, adapt, then succeed anew in Low-A, but Manoah shot past that and onto the Blue Jays roster. His confidence that he’ll be able to handle the adversity of baseball, of course, has very little to do with the sport itself.
“I’ve been in a lot tougher situations than the bases being loaded, so when the bases are loaded, it’s still all fun and games for me,” Manoah said. “I work really hard. I take this really personally, because it’s something I want to do for a really long time. At the same time, I understand there’s more to life. That allows me to navigate the pressure. I’ve been in tough situations before. I wouldn’t consider pitching the toughest of situations, where it’s life or death.”
Manoah got a taste of this. After dominating the Yankees in his MLB debut, Manoah was hit hard by the Marlins, allowing three home runs and lasting just 3 1/3 innings. When he spoke after the game, you wouldn’t know it. Alek’s big, boisterous mound presence is, by all accounts, the same person you'd see off the field. The idea of “being yourself” sounds simple, a subconscious thing we all do when we wake up, but it’s not as easy when thousands of eyes and incredible expectations rest on you.
“When you are yourself, you don’t have to think about being who you want to be,” Manoah said. “When you’re yourself, you don’t have to think about anything, you just go pitch. “Learning to listen before speaking and understanding other people’s points and perspectives keeps me grounded a little bit,” Manoah explained.
“When I was younger, I was just giving my all and I didn’t care who was in my way, I was just going to do what I’ve got to do. You’re not really being considerate for teammates, coaches, things like that. The higher level you get [to], everybody is competing hard. You just have to learn how to control that adrenaline. You have to learn how to be calm but crazy all at the same time.” Calm but crazy. Manoah believes in having both, not finding a comfortable middle ground. He believes in letting himself get as amped up as he can, feeding off either the home crowd or his love for quieting the fans in another stadium, then finding a way to control that energy.
“He seems to have a pretty good heartbeat, as we saw in the Bronx and Spring Training 2021,” said general manager Ross Atkins. “We are exceptionally encouraged by the consistency he’s had when the lights aren’t on, when the cameras aren’t on. That is sometimes the hardest part. As a pitcher, I remember Orel Hershiser saying to me, ‘You’re not a professional until you enjoy the preparation.’ That really resonated with me, and I see Alek embracing that, embracing that preparation, which is very exciting.”
This has all come with a wave off attention, too. “Call up Manoah” became the rallying cry of Blue Jays fans through March, April and May 2021. His social media accounts have blown up. There are days where he sifts through notifications and tries to remember to answer each text from his family members, but it’s a lot to handle while you acclimate yourself to life in the big leagues. For now, he’s trying to block out the noise. (Matheson - mlb.com - 6/7/2021)
Aug 18-22, 2021: Alek was on the bereavement list.
Sept 25, 2021: Back on May 31, Alek sat in his hotel room in Buffalo, N.Y., watching a Yankees game, laying low on his first off-day in the big leagues. Veteran Hyun Jin Ryu was at Niagara Falls. Manoah, scrolling through Instagram, saw this and swiped up to reply. “Hey, man. Don’t fall in.”
He'd kept his distance from the veteran starters, wanting to respect their time while still learning from them through Spring Training and his early days with the Blue Jays, but this was the beginning of the education of Alek Manoah.
“He responded to me and he was like, ‘What are you doing?’" Manoah said. “I sent him a picture, I think I was watching a Yankees game in the hotel room. That was the first time where he was like, ‘Are you by yourself?’ I said yes, and he said to come to his room. He had ordered food."
Since then, Manoah and Ryu have become the Blue Jays’ odd couple. Manoah, still 23, is one of the biggest personalities on the team, buzzing with energy and confidence, riffing one-line catch phrases like a heavyweight boxer. Ryu, now 34, seems to be Manoah’s opposite. He’s seen it all, done it all and his heartbeat rarely flickers above its resting rate.
At least, that’s what we see on the field. Behind the scenes, Ryu the person is different than Ryu the pitcher. He cracks jokes just like everyone else, Manoah says, and ensures that young pitchers are included. Ryu has taken Manoah under his wing, quietly and effectively.
“He’s a huge role model. He’s definitely like a big brother to me, somebody that I can look up to,” Manoah said. “He’s been through a lot of the things that I’m going to be getting ready to go through. He’s been in my footsteps before. I just have a ton of respect for him and everything he’s done in the league."
Their real work comes at the dinner table, though. Whether it’s Korean barbecue or a steakhouse, if you’re rolling with Ryu, you’re eating well. Ryu has introduced Manoah to some new favorites, too. There’s one that stands out, first made for Manoah by Ryu’s chef.
“The one big one that I liked, but I was kind of iffy at first on, was a seafood pancake,” Manoah explained. “It’s literally a pancake -- no batter, no bread -- but it’s a bunch of different squid, fish, shrimp, all of this stuff, fried like a pancake. Then they serve it. It had vegetables and things like that, and you dip it in this little sauce. At first, I was like, ‘What? Seafood pancake?’ Now, every time we go eat I’m like, ‘Hey, seafood pancake.’” These aren’t small plates, either. With Manoah standing 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds and Ryu coming in at 6-foot-3 and 255 pounds, these are big league dinners.
“Yeah. We can eat some food," said Manoah. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Sept 25, 2021)
This rotation’s wealth of knowledge extends well beyond Ryu, of course.
There’s Robbie Ray and José Berríos. By taking lessons from each, Manoah has hit the ground running in the Majors, immediately becoming a core piece of this rotation's present and future:
On Hyun Jin Ryu: “It was June or July and he was struggling a little bit with his changeup and we were both looking at his video. While watching his video, I kind of learned something about my mechanics and my shoulders.”
On José Berríos: “I learned a lot from Berríos, because we both have similar mechanics, we’re both on the right side of the rubber. He looks like he’s throwing across his body, but then he lands straight. There’s a lot of times that I do land across my body, so I’ve been getting pointers from him on how he focuses on his back knee, so I’ve been able to learn from that and stay directional with my back knee.”
On Robbie Ray: “The way he gets going in his bullpens, the rhythm that he gets into. There’s a lot of times where I would go and start throwing, and I’m already in my windup, whereas he might just throw a few to just get a rhythm. Then, once you get into your windup, it’s a lot easier, so I’ve learned about rhythm from him.”
The magic ingredient here, Manoah’s coaches say, is the openness to learn. Confidence is an important piece to the equation, and Manoah has enough for an entire roster, but a stubborn confidence caps a player’s ceiling. Instead, Manoah is succeeding with not just his own talent, but the talent of those around him. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Sept 25, 2021)
Dec 14, 2021: The Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voted Blue Jays Rookie of the Year: RHP Alek Manoah.
Entering Spring Training, it seemed like a late-season promotion was the best-case scenario for the young right-hander. But Manoah accelerated that timeline, pitching well in camp before putting up a 0.50 ERA with 27 strikeouts over 18 innings in Triple-A. Including his MLB debut on May 27 against the Yankees, Manoah went 9-2 with a 3.22 ERA over 20 starts (111 2/3 IP), striking out 127.
Manoah did not begin pitching until he was a junior at South Dale High in Homestead, Fla.; he was a catcher and first baseman his first two years. He did not get selected in the 2016 draft, which consisted of 40 rounds and 1,216 picks. Nor was he recruited by any of the major college programs in his home state (Florida).
“I used that as a chip on my shoulder,” Manoah said.
Manoah turned down the chance to attend the draft at MLB Network, but not because he feared getting iced. Mazey had asked him where he wanted to gather on draft day, and Manoah did not hesitate with his response.
“We started this whole recruiting process at your house,” Manoah said. “I want to finish this thing at your house.”
Less than three years have passed since that night. Manoah, 24, has more than justified the Jays’ selection, producing a 2.81 ERA in 27 major-league starts, including a 1.71 ERA in seven starts this season. Not bad for a kid who went undrafted out of high school, a kid who weighed more than 300 pounds after his freshman year of college, a kid who believed in himself and forced others to believe in him.
No wonder Sanders was so excited that day he saw Manoah against Texas Tech. No wonder Barbiche never wavered in his evaluation.
“He has a gravitational pull to him,” Barbiche said. (Rosenthal - TheAthletic.com - May 18, 2022)
July 10, 2022: Alek was added to the American League lineup for the July 19 All-Star Game. Pitching arguably the most entertaining inning of the night, Manoah breezed through the bottom of the NL lineup, becoming only the second Blue Jay (Dave Stieb, 1983) with at least three punchouts in an All-Star Game.
Several pitches came at the request of John Smoltz, in his ear, while mic’d up on the broadcast. “Three punchies! Let’s go!”
- Manoah, battling a stomach bug, that had nearly sent him to the hospital, still delivers an incredible performance against the Rays.
After sleeping all day, Manoah reported to the ballpark around 3:00 p.m., ate some food and received a course of fluids through an IV. After that, he got the OK from the medical staff to start the nightcap, and he put together a gutsy performance that gave his team a chance to author its comeback win. Though there was some doubt early in the morning about whether Manoah would be on the mound that day, in his mind, he was always making this start.
“I kind of have a mentality — my job’s not to feel good; my job is to just go out there and compete. So no matter what’s going on in the circumstances, just got to go out there and give this team a chance,” Manoah said. “I know they knew I was going through it. I knew they’d pick me up.”
Manoah wasn’t at 100 percent — his velocity was down about 1 mph. During his warmup, he said he was just trying to focus on one simple task: Don’t throw up. Not only did he not throw up, but he also pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing just two runs, both solo home runs, on five hits with two walks and five strikeouts.
“He’s firmly cemented himself as one of the best pitchers in the league or the game,” Schneider said. “What he did tonight was just kind of more of the same.” (McGrath-TheAthletic-Sep 14, 2022)
Nov 16, 2022: Coming off a breakout season in which he emerged as one of baseball’s rare combinations of dominance and durability, Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah finished third in the voting for the AL Cy Young.
Astros ace Justin Verlander was selected as the unanimous winner by Baseball Writers' Association of America voters, earning all 30 first-place votes for 210 points. White Sox right-hander Dylan Cease (97 points) earned 14 of the second-place votes, while Manoah (87 points) trailed behind with seven votes for second, 13 for third and 10 for fourth. (K Matheson - MLB.com - Nov 16, 2022)
Dec. 31, 2022: The Toronto Blue Jays pitcher rang in the new year by proposing to Marielena Somoza in front of partygoers at a New Year’s Eve party. According to Daily Hive, Manoah and Somoza first met while attending West Virginia University, where Manoah pitched for the Mountaineers baseball team and Somoza was a star on the women’s volleyball squad.
- Jan 28, 2023: - The 6-foot-6 Alek Manoah towered above a crowd of 100-plus kids ages 4-15.
“Did you have fun today?” Manoah asked. “Yeah!” A chorus of children yelled back.
The group, most of whom were between 6 and 13 years old, was preparing to run a relay race as the final activity of the second-annual Alek Manoah Camp at South Dade Senior High School in Homestead, Fla. Manoah attended South Dade before he was drafted 11th overall by the Blue Jays out of West Virginia University in the 2019 MLB Draft. He was joined by his brother Erik -- who plays pro ball in the Atlantic League -- Major Leaguers J.J. Matijevic (Astros), Santiago Espinal (Blue Jays) and Touki Toussaint (Guardians), plus Minor Leaguer Adam Kloffenstein (Double-A New Hampshire) and local coaches -- including Jonathan Fernandez, son of Tony Fernandez.
Manoah started the camp last year to help provide South Florida baseball players with access to the best training and advice: things the Toronto right-hander wished were available to him as a young player. What began with about 50 kids last year turned into a crowd of over 100 athletes, including two young girls.
“Growing up in the circumstances that I grew up in, in Homestead and all that stuff, it's very easy to get caught in the negative,” Manoah said. “Being able to have a platform, being able to live out my dream -- [it] started out as just a dream, just like all these kids. They're just dreaming to be in the big leagues.”
Manoah’s impact in his hometown remains palpable. A banner dedicated to Manoah from the 2021 graduating class hangs on the back of the stands. Current South Dade players helped run the camp, and each participant got to take a picture with Manoah.
“I just want to be somebody who, you know, played at the same parks that they play at, sat at the same classrooms, did all that stuff," Manoah said. "I want to be somebody who's there for them so that they can say, ‘Hey, you know what? Manoah did exactly what we're doing right now. We can make it the same way he made it.’”
The camp began with dynamic stretches before players split into groups and rotated between seven stations, working on everything from pitching and hitting to catching pop flies and turning double plays. After the relay race, camp closed out with a Q&A.All the while, Manoah’s mother, Susana, bounced between stations taking pictures and videos of the kids involved. For her, the camp is what keeps her going through the offseason.“She's always been the team mom,” Manoah said. “So she's like, ‘Hey, I want to be the camp mom … whatever you need me to do now.’ It brings her a lot of joy. And it brings her back some really good memories from when we were young.”“It’s what keeps me alive,” Susana said, “being involved. … Baseball is important to me, but their integrity as men is more important. So the fact that he does this for the kids and there's no selfish intentions or anything about it, because there's no money-making in this. This all strictly goes into the gift packs for them. … this way, people can afford it.”
Susana is more proud of the man her son has become than his baseball success, though there’s plenty of that to be proud of, too. In just his second Major League season, Manoah made the American League All-Star team and gave fans quite a show by striking out three, all while mic’d up. Manoah has been shoving since his debut on May 27, 2021, vs. the Yankees.
Manoah has been dominant and as consistent as a veteran starter. Of his 31 starts in 2022, Manoah had just six starts of fewer than six innings and no starts shorter than five innings. The third-place AL Cy Young Award finisher ended the regular season with 180 strikeouts and a 2.24 ERA (in 196 2/3 innings), fourth best in the Majors.
With the camp done -- and a success by all accounts -- Manoah has his sights set on Spring Training and the start of the Blue Jays' season.
“I’m super excited to go out there and build off of what we were able to kind of put together last year,” Manoah said. “Just go put it all together and go bring that championship back to Toronto.”
It’s fair to say that Homestead will be rooting for Manoah to get to that championship, too. (P Leckie - MLB.com - Jan 28, 2023)
- March 24, 2023: The Blue Jays selected Alek to be opening day pitcher against the Cards.
April 3, 2023: Alek Manoah was born to stand atop a mound. He looks just as comfortable in front of a microphone, though, and he’s picked up a new side gig.
Manoah is joining MLB Network’s morning program, MLB Central, as a weekly correspondent, making him the first active player to have that position with the network. He’ll debut April 3 at 10:30 a.m. ET, and this isn’t something Manoah is doing on a whim. The 25-year-old is thoughtful and calculated when it comes to media, especially for his age. He recognizes that his talent and personality, when paired properly, can open doors for him, but he also sees this as an opportunity to connect with young baseball fans. As much as Manoah is a baseball star, he’s a baseball fan, and he wants to make it feel real for the next generation.
“The day kids stop dreaming about being in the big leagues, baseball ends,” Manoah said. “That’s something I don’t want to see happen.”
Manoah has become more and more involved with youth programs and young fans over his short MLB career. His upbringing was not always easy, and his path to the big leagues was not always a straight line, which is why he wants to connect with kids in similar situations.
“There’s a lot of kids out there who stuff is easy for, and it’s going great with lots of opportunities,” Manoah said. “On the other side, there’s not. There’s a lot of guys on this field and on fields around MLB who grew up in those circumstances. For me, players before us have paved the way for us and allowed us to grow our dreams. It’s our job to continue that.”
If Manoah were hosting a weekly cooking show, you could make the case that it’s a distraction. This keeps Manoah within the baseball world, though, and his weekly appearances can be shaped around his pitching and travel schedules with the Blue Jays.
Manoah’s personality extends well beyond baseball, of course, and he’s far more than a baseball player, but this is the avenue that he’s earned both respect and an audience in. We’ve seen players with big personalities before but Manoah backs it up, finishing third in AL Cy Young Award voting last season with a 2.24 ERA.
“My priority is baseball in everything,” Manoah said. “As I continue to grow and take other steps off the field, I obviously want to create a really good foundation for myself in baseball. I understand there’s a lot of kids out there who follow us and look up to us. The more and more we can give them a real presence -- not just from a distance -- they’ll continue to love the game even more.”
Toronto has long understood Manoah’s marketability, but the rest of the baseball world got to see it at the 2022 All-Star Game when Manoah was mic’d up. With two strikes to Jeff McNeil, he asked the booth which pitch they wanted him to throw, and John Smoltz requested a “back-foot slider, down and low.”
“Oh, you’re sexy. Here we go,” Manoah replied, live on the air.
He plunked McNeil with that pitch, but soon after, he struck out Ronald Acuña Jr. and bounced off the field.
“Right down the middle, but we’ll take it!” Manoah shouted over the broadcast. “Three punches! Let’s go!”
That’s what you’ll see more of on Manoah’s weekly segments. He sees and appreciates the former players who are part of coverage around the league, but he believes that he adds a fresh perspective on the fast-changing MLB landscape. It’s something that’s been done well in the NBA and NFL, so while Manoah is the first, he’s surely not the last.
The only certainty, says Manoah’s manager John Schneider, is that “Big Puma” will be entertaining. (K Matheson - MLB.com - April 3, 2023)
|Birth City:||Miami, FL|
|Draft:||Blue Jays #1 - 2019 - Out of West Virginia Univ.|
Manoah has a 93-98 mph FASTBALL with heavy tailing life and is a 60 grade pitch. He also has a swing-and-miss SLIDER with good depth and shape for a 55 grade. And that is his go-to put-away pitch. And he has a good CHANGEUP that grades 45, but should improve.
During 2021 spring training, Alek was simply overpowering in seven innings across three outings—two of them against regular season-caliber Yankees' lineups—striking out 15 while allowing one hit and zero walks.
After a summer spent at the alternate training site made it difficult to assess where he stood, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Manoah's dominance suggested that his arrival to the majors is on the horizon.
“It’s been pretty good for me just to understand that the stuff plays, just go out there, be yourself," Manoah said. "You don't need to be too much. You don't need to shoot yourself down. Just go out there, stay level-headed and just let the game take care of the rest, just do everything that I can control.”
Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins said, "Workload is an issue. Competitiveness and heartbeat doesn't seem to be an issue. But we will err on the side of being a bit more patient as we think about these coming weeks and months. Beyond that, he's going to dictate his pace.” (Shi Davidi - Baseball America - May, 2021)
2022 Pitch Usage/Avg. Velo: Fastball 35.4% of the time - 94 mph; Slider 27% - 81.5 mph; Sinker 26% - 93.3 mph; Change 11.5% - 86.6 mph.
Alek is a power pitcher with a gigantic frame. Manoah will need to stay on top of his conditioning, but he leverages his size into a high-octane fastball. He is more athletic than his body suggests, which helps him throw strikes, though he does need to tighten his fastball command.
A physical beast who's listed at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, Manoah has always shown glimpses of solid power stuff, but without consistency or command of it. That changed this spring as he showed above-average control for most of his junior season. And his heater, missing a ton of bats thanks to good sink. His slider flashes plus at times and has been a more reliable weapon for him. He has a solid changeup, and though he didn’t need to lean on it much for the Mountaineers it gives him a solid three-pitch mix and he has the ability to throw it for strikes.
Manoah has managed to keep his large frame in sync, thanks to his athleticism and abbreviated windup, and has repeated his delivery in order to fill up the strike zone more effectively. Because he doesn’t have many starts on his resume, he’s a rare college pitcher with projection. With three pitches, power stuff and natural strike-throwing ability, Manoah has all the ingredients needed to become an impactful Major League starter. (Spring 2020)
- Spring 2019: Manoah’s repertoire features a power fastball and a hard slider, along with a changeup that he didn’t use much throughout the 2019 season with the Mountaineers, but it is still a pitch that the Blue Jays are impressed by. Manoah went 9-4 with a 2.08 ERA in 108 innings over 16 starts, with 27 walks and 144 strikeouts this past 2019 season.
Alek has a loose, compact delivery, starting from the third base side of the rubber and lands slightly closed.
He comes at hitters from a good downhill plane. He has good arm speed.
Manoah fills the strike zone. In 2019, he pitched exclusively out of the stretch and, as a result, has improved his strike-throwing ability enough to give him a real shot of sticking as a starter in pro ball.
Alek maintains his velo until late in games. Improved conditioning would allow him to pitch even deeper into games. He is going to have to stay in control of his body size.
The list of major league starting pitchers who have had success at or near Manoah’s size is a short one, with CC Sabathia, Aaron Harang, Justin Masterson and Michael Pineda some of the names who qualify. Still, Manoah’s stuff compares nicely with most of the pitchers in the 2019 class, and he’s steadily improved his draft stock with each start. (Spring, 2019)
Steve Sanders, Toronto’s director of amateur scouting said, “Alek really sort of rounded out his game, we feel [in the spring of 2019 at WVU]. “We’re excited about the pitch mix that Alek brings to the table -- three pitches, power stuff, a lot of strikes -- and confident that he’s got all the ingredients to be a key cog in a Major League rotation.”
Manoah’s repertoire features a power fastball and a hard slider, along with a changeup that he didn’t use much throughout the 2019 season with the Mountaineers, but is a pitch that the Blue Jays are impressed by.
“Alek’s got a really good feel for his changeup, [he] doesn’t use it quite as much as the slider,” Sanders said. “This year we saw primarily a two-pitch attack with his fastball and his slider, but he did mix the change in occasionally and it’s a really effective third pitch.
“We really love what Alek brings to the table in his now stuff but do see room for him to continue to develop and to continue to improve. He’s got a really well-rounded three-pitch mix that’s going to play at the next level.” (Rucnicki - mlb.com - 6/3/19)
Manoah has a presence about him. Maybe it’s the 6-foot-6, 260-pound, defensive lineman-like stature from the South Florida native. Or it could be the routine he performs behind the mound before his first pitch, when he stands about 10 feet behind the mound and prays, asking for “his angels to keep him safe and whether he is good or bad that day that he learns from his experience.”
Then, as he quickly comes out of his stance of meditation, he throws his arms up in the air like a bullfighter preparing to step into the ring.
Manoah’s most intimidating presence comes from how he has taken his 95-98 mph fastball, his newly developed 82-84 mph slider and a much-improved changeup and helped him morph from a hard-thrower into a polished pitcher. That improvement has turned into better results this season.
The junior Manoah attributes much of his success to simply figuring himself out.
“I always had a good fastball, but it wasn’t allowing me the success I wanted or needed to have,” he said. “I watched a lot of video this past summer in the Cape Cod League on other pitchers and knew I needed to develop a better slider for my success.”
When he's in his comfort zone, Alek is trying to win each pitch, one pitch at a time and focusing on winning innings. And it is something that clearly seems to be working out just fine. (Dave Serrano - Baseball America - June, 2019)
As a big guy with a lot of moving parts, Manoah understands that leveraging his size is no simple task, but he developed his mechanics on his own, finding a "delivery that is molded to me.”
"I don’t really have one major league pitcher in common that I can think of who I really follow,” he said. "I learned my slider from a Dellin Betances cutter grip and a Chris Sale slider grip and kind of just molded it into one of my pitches, which really helped.
"I get a bunch of different guys who do things I like and study stuff and how it would work with me. I put it all together, try things out. Some things work; some things don’t. It’s a work in progress and it’s been a good work in progress so far to this point, and there’s a lot more work to do to evolve into a big league pitcher.” (Shi Davidi - Baseball America - August, 2019)
2021 Improvements: Manoah says his arsenal has advanced from 2019, with more confidence in his changeup plus variations on his slider and fastball.
“In [Class A] Vancouver, I was able to blow guys away with the heater and put them away with a slider,” Manoah said. “Now, I'm able to throw changeups in the 3-2 count to a righty. I'm able to throw changeups in 1-2 counts, 1-1 counts, 2-1 counts. I'm able to throw different variations of the slider and fastballs in different locations.” (Keegan Matheson - Feb. 21, 2021)
May 26, 2021: Manoah on making his debut: 'Go out there and attack'.
The first thing you’ll notice about Alek Manoah is his energy. Combine that with some off-the-charts confidence, and you get swagger. It’s a weapon just as valuable as a fastball or slider for the Blue Jays’ No. 5 prospect, as ranked by MLB Pipeline.
He’s already got his catch phrases, too. You’ll often hear him say, “As long as it’s still 60 feet, six inches,” he should be just fine. And when it comes to how he matches up against baseball’s best hitters? Well, as he loves to say, “The stuff plays.”
It needs to. Manoah’s expected Major League debut at Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly easing the young man in, but that’s not what this season is about, and that’s how this decision by the Blue Jays is so different from recent, much-hyped promotions like Nate Pearson, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. or Bo Bichette.
“He earned his chance to get here. We’ll see what he does and we’re not going to put that much expectation on him,” said manager Charlie Montoyo. “We’re going to let him pitch and see what he does. I’m glad the expectations aren’t that high, like they were for Vladdy. He’s pitching at Yankee Stadium, but he earned it. He earned his way to pitch here and we’ll see what he does.”
The expectations aren’t that high? Compared to Guerrero, perhaps not, but Blue Jays fans have been shouting Manoah’s name from the rooftops this season, begging for this day to come. Now, it's almost here. This is different, though, because the Blue Jays are trying to win. Not just next year, but now, today. When Guerrero and Bichette debuted, the Blue Jays were on their way to a 67-95 season that was always expected to be a little ugly, focused more on launching the organization forward than competing for a postseason run. The Blue Jays snuck into the playoffs in 2020, of course, but Pearson’s debut came in a shortened season with mid-range expectations.
Manoah isn’t being brought up to round out his development and build for the future. He’s being brought up to beat the Yankees, period. It’s the same Yankees team he dominated twice in Spring Training, which got this whole hype train rolling, and he’s dedicated himself to taking things a step further since then.
“I’ve continued to learn hitters, continued to learn their approach, continued to learn how they’re trying to beat me,” Manoah explained. “I’m understanding what hitters are reading in the scouting report going into the game and stuff like that. And I’m not letting that take me out of my groove. I’m understanding that hitters might know the heater is coming or the slider, whatever the case may be in certain counts, but the stuff plays. I’ll continue to have confidence in that.”
It certainly worked in Triple-A. Manoah posted a 0.50 ERA over three starts with 27 strikeouts and three walks. This isn’t a traditional path to the Majors by any means, but rarely has a prospect put more pressure on this organization with their performance. Dominating more mature hitters in Triple-A only helped his signature confidence.
“There’s always that question mark, getting thrown into the fire. Am I going to be good? Am I as good as they think I am? I just continue to work,” Manoah said. “My M.O. is to continue to work, continue to put my head down and not worry about those things. It’s easy for it to creep in there, but you’ve got to creep it out real quick, go out there and attack.”
All credit goes to Manoah for forcing the Blue Jays’ hand here, but the state of their big league rotation certainly helped. Hyun Jin Ryu has been his classic, ace self, posting a 2.53 ERA up to this point, but it’s been a different story behind him.
Steven Matz opened with a brilliant start to April, then faded and has battled inconsistencies since. Robbie Ray has reinvented himself as a strike-thrower, helping to stabilize the group, but beyond that, it’s been a revolving door. What this group has needed all along is upside.
The Blue Jays hoped that Pearson would provide that early, but he struggled mightily in his 2021 debut and is now back with Triple-A Buffalo. Thomas Hatch is working his way back from injury and could be part of the rotation soon, but Manoah offers a rare ceiling. The pressure is on, but he’s confident you’ll still see the same Manoah. Big, boisterous aggressive, no matter what. “I’m always a high-energy guy out there between the lines. I give it everything I’ve got and my teammates know that,” Manoah said. “Even if I suck out there, they’re going to know that I sucked at 100%. I give it all I’ve got.” (K Matheson - MLB.com - May 26, 2021)
August 11, 2021: Alek was dialed in during the 11th start of his MLB career. After recording 11 strikeouts over 6 2/3 strong innings, Manoah has 71 strikeouts in 2021. He reached the 70-strikeout mark in the fewest number of games by a pitcher in Blue Jays history.
Sept 2021: Manoah was the AL Rookie of the Month. With Toronto locked in the AL Wild Card race, Manoah went 4-0 with a 3.38 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 37 innings over the final month of the season. The Blue Jays won all six of his starts, including four big wins against the postseason contender A's, Yankees and Rays.
Manoah's best start came against the Rays on Sept. 13, when he pitched eight innings of one-hit ball with 10 strikeouts. The 23-year-old closed out his season with a seven-inning, one-hit, one-run, 10-strikeout gem against the Orioles.
2021 Season: While many of the Blue Jays’ young stars got a lot of national attention throughout the 2021 season, one player flew under the radar: Alek Manoah.
The righty put together a fantastic rookie season for Toronto, and he deserves some recognition.
Manoah made his debut for the Blue Jays in May, and it didn’t take long for the team to realize that the youngster was MLB-ready.
He wound up making 20 starts on the year, and the results were outstanding.
He pitched to a 3.22 ERA, 136 ERA+, 3.80 FIP, and 1.05 WHIP.
Of his 20 starts, he allowed 3 runs or fewer 16 times.
Toronto went 16-4 in his 20 starts. (Sam Leweck - Oct 20, 2021)
BIG FINISH TO ROOKIE SEASON
As good as Manoah was all season long, he took things to another level over the final month of the season.
The 23-year-old had an absurdly impressive five-start stretch to end the year in which he pitched to a 2.23 ERA, 3.14 FIP, and .165 opponent batting average.
If you shrink the sample to his final four starts, then he posted a minuscule 1.69 ERA, 2.61 FIP, and .148 opponent batting average over the span.
Over those final four starts, he fanned at least seven batters each time out and had two games with 10 strikeouts.
It was a fantastic way for the former first-round pick to finish his standout year.
Although the Jays’ regular season ended unceremoniously, Manoah finished his individual campaign with a bang. (Sam Leweck - Oct 20, 2021)
2022 Season: Baseball Reference had him at a 5.9 WAR (tied with Justin Verlander for 3rd in the AL).
He had a .244 BABIP (.246 last year). 82.6% of his baserunners were left on base (up from 76.6% last year).
Alek’s FIP was 3.35 and xFIP 3.98 (which explains why his fWAR was lower than his bWAR).
His line drive rate was 20.6% (20.7 last year). Ground ball 37.5% (38.8 last year). Fly ball 41.9% (40.6 last year). 7.1% of his fly ball left the park (10.7 last year). So pretty much all the same as last year.
Manoah’s strikeout rate was 22.9% (down from 27.7) and his walk rate was 6.5% (down from 8.7).
His soft contact rate was 16.9% (down from 19.9) and hard contact was 23.7% (also down from 25.7).
He was better vs. right-handed batters (.159/.211/.249) than left-handed batters (.237/.313/.367).
Batters hit him a little better on the road (.213/.289/.322) than at home (.191/.256/.306) but he had a better ERA on the road (2.07) than at home (2.42). A sample size issue I’m sure.
He was equally good in the first half (batters hit .205/.263/.318, 2.28 ERA) as in the second half (.198/.275/.309, 2.20 ERA). (Tom Dakers@bluebirdbanter - Oct 13, 2022)
- July 16-30, 2021: Alek was on the IL with right back contusion.