The list of past Outstanding Pro Prospect award winners for the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, the top college summer wood bat league, is distinguished. Robin Ventura, Mark Teixeira, Chuck Knoblauch, and Matt Wieters lead the way for the hitters, while Billy Wagner, Aaron Crow, Kip Wells, and Andrew Miller headline the pitchers (full list here, as well as analysis from the very amusing Carson Cistulli). Out of the 19 hitters and 19 pitchers given the OPP, 27–14 hitters and 13 pitchers–reached the major leagues, a high percentage indeed. This year, the winner of the Cape Cod League OPP was a rangy left-hander named Sean Manaea.
The 20-year-old Manaea recently concluded his sophomore season at Indiana State, where he went 5-3 with at 3.34 ERA and 115 Ks in 105 innings, walking only 37. It was a significant improvement from his freshman year, when he had a 4.32 ERA and lower strikeout rate, but what really has the baseball world buzzing is Manaea’s performance in the Cape Cod League, a league which Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs reports has 200 of its members drafted every year and has over 200 active alumni in the majors. The young southpaw tore through the elite collegiate league like a cyclone, posting a 1.22 ERA, 85/7 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and giving up just 21 hits in 51.2 innings pitched, a level of dominance normally reserved for consensus top prospects.
Accordingly, Manaea may be on his way to top prospect status. At 6’5″, 215, he has the projectable frame with room for growth that scouts love, and left-handers who throw in the mid 90s with command are few and far between. Manaea also has a very smooth, fluid delivery and a 3/4 arm slot which gives his fastball good tailing action (video here). In the words of Indiana State head coach Rick Heller, “He has such an easy arm delivery, then it comes out at 95-96. That’s what the pro guys look for, easy velocity. And I really think there’s more there.” Manaea’s slider and changeup are works in progress, though some scouts have reported that Manaea’s good sliders flash plus. As with almost every young pitcher, Manaea will need to work on developing his secondary pitches to become the elite prospect that he has the potential to be, but his fastball alone makes him intriguing.
At this point it is borderline useless to speculate on what Manaea’s professional future holds. He could get injured next season before the draft, he could get drafted and opt not to sign, or he could walk away from the game. Looking at past recipients of the Cape Cod OPP and Manaea’s career trend, however, it seems likely that the wiry Sycamore will be a 1st round pick in next year’s draft. Hopefully he spends the offseason honing his secondary pitches and comes out in the spring with three quality offerings, a situation which may land him in the top 10-15 slots. Even he Manaea doesn’t develop further, I would be surprised if he drops out of the 2nd round. In any case, one thing is certain: the future looks bright for Sean Manaea.