Written by: Josh Weil
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Nothing excites me like a young pitcher with poise, and that knows how to pitch batters. Matt Manning, is just that. Drafted 9th overall in 2016 by the Tigers, Manning has looked the part. In 2018, he led all Tigers Minor League pitchers with 154 strikeouts in his age-20 season With a career K/9 of 11.1 in the minors, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be able to continue with this when he gets the call to Comerica Park.
Along with the impressive numbers Manning has posted, if you look deeper into the analytic data, he was actually quite unlucky. In his first chance at Double-A he had a 4.22 ERA, but a 2.30 FIP! Opponents had a .393 BABIP, even thought he had a Ground Ball% of 42.3%. In his first full season of Double-A in 2019, his numbers normalized to the tune of a 2.56 ERA and a 2.53 FIP. Opponents had a .259 BABIP.
Matt Manning is a tall, long and athletic pitcher with a fluid delivery and he delivers an easy mid-90s fastball that touches 97. Hie height and extension allow for it to play up even more in terms of velocity. This pitch will be the bread and butter for him, as he has worked hard to perfect his craft. His hard working nature, combined with his frame and athleticism has me believing there may be one more tick that his velocity can go up.
Whatever the future holds for this pitch, right now, this pitch can play in the Major Leagues right now. Coaching from the Tigers organization has helped him find a repeatable motion that allows for consistent use of the exceptional extension he has towards the plate.
Manning’s clear cut second offering is his curveball. The pitch itself is more of a power-curve, consistently clocking in at 80-82 mph. His extension allows him to get an exceptionally favorable angle on this pitch and creates tilt that makes this pitch a plus pitch, even with an average spin rate.
The story on Manning from draft day to today is really the development of consistent mechanics, and that has made his curveball from a non-factor that he barely used into a true plus pitch.
Manning’s changeup is the pitch that I think will be the difference between Matt Manning being a #3 starter and a true ace. He has had a tendency to not fully follow through when throwing it because of poor command in the past, but with working closely with coaches he has started to get comfortable with it. If he can get it down from 86 mph to 82 or even lower, he can make this into a lethal three-pitch mix.
Matt Manning was given a once in a lifetime chance, as a minor leaguer, to join the MLB team on game day and throw a bullpen session with the MLB pitching coach, who happens to now be the teams manager, Ron Gardenhire.
Since draft day, and throughout this article, the theme for Manning has been his mechanics, and when it comes to his command, there is no exception. When he repeats his mechanics properly, he seems to be in full control and has potential to be dominant. He had an inconsistent BB/9 through his time in the low minors, but seems to have it under a little more control ever since he has reached Double-A.
The potential of this 6-6 righty is truly through the roof. When he had the bullpen session with the big club, Gardenhire did say he would like to see Manning not be crouching as much when he pitches, as it is limiting his extension. He has already shown us he has good extension, but with his wiry frame and long limbs, he has the body to have elite extension and deception if he puts the work in. I think he won’t need much more than a half-season at Triple-A before he forces the hand of the organization to have him compete at the highest level. When this time comes, I am confident he will not disappoint.