Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire: Alek Manoah’s big-league debut brings questions, but big excitement

We’ve seen 10 pitchers make their MLB debut as a starter so far this season, and only two have finished five innings in their first start. The best might have been from Cody Poteet, who limited the Diamondbacks to two runs with six strikeouts in five innings a few weeks back.

So, maybe don’t expect Alek Manoah to come out looking like an ace when he makes his MLB debut Wednesday against the Yankees.  Or maybe you should, because that’s all the Blue Jays pitching prospect has looked like when we’ve seen him so far this year. He made three starts at Triple-A Buffalo before getting the call, striking out 27 batters with just three walks and seven hits allowed. He also made three appearances in spring training for the Blue Jays, striking out 15 of the 24 batters he faced while allowing one hit in seven innings of work. Manoah sure has looked like an ace so far, and he’s certainly someone Fantasy players in all leagues should consider adding ahead of his debut.

Manoah is a 23-year-old right-hander whose rise to Fantasy relevance has been a pretty meteoric one since being the No. 11 pick in the 2019 draft out of West Virginia. He’s a giant on the mound at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, and he’s got the kind of fastball and slider combo that should help him rack up tons of whiffs. However, his size and power arsenal had some thinking he might be a future reliever, which helps explain why one of the hottest pitchers in pro baseball right now wasn’t even a consensus top-100 prospect coming into the season.

However, Manoah has worked hard on both refining his slider and improving his changeup, while scouts have noted improvements in his conditioning that have made his future as a starter look a bit more viable. Obviously, because of the lack of minor-league games last season we didn’t get to see what that looked like in games, which means we’re still dealing with incredibly small sample sizes for Manoah — he’s thrown all of 35 innings in official games. That makes it hard to say with much certainty exactly why kind of pitcher Manoah is right now.

  • We talk Alek Manoah, Austin Gomber, buy and sell for Dynasty leagues and Vladimir Guerrero on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

So, it’s a bit of a leap of faith to call him a must-start pitcher. But it’s a leap worth taking, given how impressive Manoah has been in his limited opportunities so far. Maybe he won’t be worth the hype. Maybe he still needs some seasoning. Maybe he isn’t quite ready to consistently work his way through a major-league lineup multiple times. Manoah certainly carries more volatility than your typical must-add pitching prospect call-up.

But that also cuts both ways. Which is to say what if this is for real? What if Manoah really did make a leap last season while working in his garage, his training center, and on the side fields at the Blue Jays spring training complex?

Call it risk, call it high variance, call him a mystery box. Any of those fit. But it’s also worth making sure you can find a spot on your roster for Manoah one way or the other. Because if what we’ve seen so far this year is real, he could be 2021’s first legitimate difference making pitcher debut. 

Here’s who else we’re looking at on waivers coming out of Monday’s games:

Possible waiver wire pickups

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