Alek Isaac Manoah
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 6", Weight 260 lb.
- School West Virginia University
- High School South Dade High School
- Debut May 27, 2021
Pitcher Alek Manoah was selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the first round of the 2019 amateur draft, with the 11th overall pick, out of the University of West Virginia. In his final season with the Mountaineers, he had gone 9-4, 2.08 as a starter, with a K/W ratio of 144/27 in 108 1/3 innings. He pitched briefly for the Vancouver Canadians of the Northwest League that summer, logging 17 innings in 6 starts with an 0-1 record and an ERA of 2.65.
Alek then spent all of 2020 at the Blue Jays' alternative training site, working out with major league players and other top prospects as the minor leagues were shutdown. In 2021, he received an invitation to spring training and impressed everyone with his stuff, to the point that some were calling for him to start the year in the Show in spite of his minimal professional experience, given that his main rival for the title of top pitching prospect in the organization, Nate Pearson had to start the year on the disabled list. He was send all the way to AAA and in his first three starts with the Buffalo Bisons was as dominant as dominant can be: he went 3-0, with an ERA of 0.50, allowing just 1 run on 7 hits and 3 walks in 18 innings, while striking out 27. With Pearson having failed in his one start with the major league Jays, and the team needing to make-do with a band-aid solution every time the fifth starter's spot came up, Alek's numbers were impossible to ignore, as he was clearly too strong for AAA baseball. On May 24th, they announced that he was being called up to make his major league debut in the next few days.
His debut was delayed by 24 hours as the game of May 26th was rained out, so he ended up starting the first game of a doubleheader against the New York Yankees at New Yankee Stadium on May 27th. He was just the second player from the 2019 draft to reach the majors, following Andrew Vaughn who had done so at the start of the season. He was issued the unconventional (for a pitcher) uniform number 6, which is the one he had worn in the amateur ranks. He pitched 6 excellent shutout innings, before turning the ball over to Jordan Romano with a 2-0 lead, courtesy of back-to-back homers by Marcus Semien and Bo Bichette in the 3rd. Romano retired the Yankees in order in the 7th to close out the win. While he wasn't as dominant in his next few starts, he did give the Jays good performances to consolidate his place in the starting rotation, as they won three his his first four starts, and their lone loss came by a score of 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox. On June 19th, however, in spite of facing the lowly Baltimore Orioles, he gave up 5 runs in 3 1/3 innings and was ejected after plunking Maikel Franco just after surrendering back-to-back homers to Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart. The umpires clearly thought the pitch was not an accident and he was also assessed a five-game suspension, which he appealed, unsuccessfully. On July 2nd, he recorded his second win - the bullpen had cost him a couple more - in an 11-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. In that game, he tied a team record with seven consecutive strikeouts at one point and pitched 7 full innings for the first time. On September 13th, again against the Rays, he made it 8 full innings, during which he did not walk anyone, allowed but one hit and struck out 10 in a truly dominant performance. The 8-1 win improved his record to 6-2. He turned in another brilliant game in his last start of the season, on October 2nd against the Orioles, with the Jays in a must-win situation to stay alive in the wild card race: he allowed just 1 hit in 7 innings, striking out 10, to lead his team to a 10-2 win. He finished the season with a record of 9-2, 3.22 in 20 starts, with 127 strikeouts in 111 2/3 innings and was named the American League Rookie of the Month for September/October.
He picked up right where he left off in 2022, as he won all four of his starts in April, going at least six innings all four games and putting up an ERA of 1.44. Going back to his rookie year, the Blue Jays had been winners in his last 12 starts, and he had personally picked up the win in the last 8 of these. Both of these streaks were close to the team records held by Hall of Famer Roy Halladay, with 14 consecutive winning starts and 11 wins, in 2003. Both streaks ended on May 3rd, but not through any fault of his: hegave up just one run in 6 innings in a start against the Yankees and left with the score tied, only to see the bullpen and defense fall completely apart in the final three innings as the game ended as a 9-1 win for New York.
Alek's older brother, Erik Manoah, has pitched in the minor leagues.