Imposing Manoah about to be a first round draftee
MORGANTOWN — The best known exports from southern Dade County in Florida have historically been strawberries, tomatoes, peppers and herbs.
When Major League Baseball holds its amateur draft early next week, all that might just change.
A very large right-handed pitcher, who didn’t ply his trade at Florida, Miami, Florida State or even Florida Gulf Coast, will very likely be drafted in the first round.
At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, Alek Manoah would be hard to miss by baseball scouts. And his 2019 season with West Virginia’s Mountaineers has been just as hard to miss.
With his massive size, Manoah will be the safest of selections. Simply because of his size, nobody will scoff at the team that selects him. Being “politically correct” has always been a primary concern of major league teams, but Manoah will justify his place in the draft because of his 2019 season.
Often dominating batters, he struck out 135 in 102.1 innings of pitching. Opponents batted a collective .186 against him. Those figures included his eight shutout innings against sixth-ranked Texas Tech in West Virginia’s 5-0 win over the Red Raiders in the recently completed Big 12 Conference tournament.
Manoah takes a 9-3 record into this weekend’s NCAA Regional being hosted by WVU at Monongalia County Ballpark, a 3,500 seat stadium that has never seen this much excitement in its short history. In 15 starts this season, Manoah had two complete games, allowed only 67 hits and 23 walks and was West Virginia’s intimidating starter in all its three-game series in conference play.
This season was much different than the 2018 campaign for Manoah. Last year, he finished with just a 3-5 record with 54 innings pitched and a 4.00 ERA.
After graduating from South Dade High School, he came to Morgantown and was not red-shirted in his first year on campus.
Other than a long tattoo on his right arm, easily seen when pitching in May or June without a long-sleeve undershirt, Manoah’s 94-plus fastball and knee-buckling curveball are now his trademarks. A third pitch, a changeup, is much more effective than it was last season. Manoah will likely need a third pitch to do well in professional baseball.
Since 1972, West Virginia has had only one other player drafted in the first round and that was right-handed pitcher Chris Enochs, taken by Oakland.
Enochs had arm problems and never distinguished himself in professional baseball.
Former Mountaineers who were drafted in the second round were pitcher Michael Grove (Dodgers), infielder Jedd Gyorko (now with St. Louis) and outfielder Darrell Whitmore (drafted by Cleveland in 1990).
Former Mountaineers currently in the major leagues are pitchers Harrison Musgraves (Colorado) and John Means (Baltimore).
Morgantown has never been a baseball hotbed, crackling with excitement over its Mountaineer teams.
But that will all change this weekend when the university hosts its first-ever four-team NCAA Regional tournament.
West Virginia will be the No. 1 seed in the event that is scheduled to run from Friday, June 1 through Monday, June 4. The Mountaineers will face the No. 4 seed on Friday in the double-elimination tournament.
Strawberries and tomatoes are still prized money-makers in the southern part of Dade County . . . but Manoah could replace them as the most famous export coming from those fertile flatlands of the Sunshine State.