Monday, June 3, 2013

Prepping for the Draft: Thoughts on Sean Manaea

When it comes to the 2013 Amateur Draft the most intriguing prospect could be Indiana State left hander Sean Manaea. This is not to say that the Sycamore is the most highly regarded prospect on the board as that honor clearly belongs to either Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray or Stanford's Mark Appel. However, eight months ago, this wasn't so obvious and many considered Manaea a candidate to be selected in the top spot of the draft.

According to Baseball America, during the Cape Cod League last summer Manaea featured a mid-90s fastball that dominated hitters, allowing them to hit just .119 against him in 52 innings of work. Unfortunately for the lefty his velocity has been down to 88-93 all Spring and he hasn't even maintained that throughout many of his starts.The combination of that and injuries haveresulted in many to predict that Manaea could slide on draft day, with some even speculating that as a Boras client he could steal a page from the Mark Appel playbook and return to school for another year.

Now, there is no way that I think the Royals should take a chance on him with the #8 overall pick in the draft. No, there are several other options that I would be much more comfortable with/excited for in the slot. However, thanks to the powers at be, the Royals have been awarded with an asset that no team has ever had before. On July 18, 2012, the Royals were crowned champions of the first ever Competitive Balance Lottery.*

*First we are the champions of the competitive balance lottery then we lead the league in fewest home runs. Can life get better?

Thanks to the Royals good fortune and small market, this weekend the Royals will get to make selections at 8, 34, and 46. Perhaps even more importantly given the new collective bargaining agreement, the Royals will also receive the additional bonus pool allotment that is assigned to each of those draft slots. As a result, the Royals have the 6th largest bonus for this year's draft.

Now back to Manaea. Here's what Jim Callis had to say about the 6-5, 215 pounder in his latest mock draft:

"Indiana State lefthander Sean Manaea remains the draft's biggest wild card. He was a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick before his stuff dipped and he endured ankle, hip and shoulder issues this spring. Teams don't have a good feel for his health or his signability, and I believe the most likely scenario is one of the clubs at the top of the draft with a large bonus pool will gamble on him after the first round."
There are only four teams that have larger bonus pools than Kansas City that also pick higher in the first round. Those teams are the Houston Astros, the Chicago Cubs, the Colorado Rockies, and the Florida Marlins. The Astros have already proven to have the strategy of spreading bonus money around to players with signability concerns, but last year they featured a strong high school focus. Theo Epstein of the Cubs drafted a similar player to Manaea in his time in Boston when he selected Anthony Ranaudo with the 39th pick of the 2010 draft.

What is important to note, is that while these teams select ahead of the Royals in the first round, the Royals will have the first shot at Manaea following the first round. The only teams with a second pick before Kansas City and a bonus pool larger than $7 million are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees.

The Pittsburgh Pirates select 9th and 14th, but would they be willing to gamble a selection that high on Manaea, especially after they were burnt a year ago with Appel? I find this doubtful. The Yankees, however, select 32 and 33 and could be a real threat. Ultimately, only time will tell if they roll the dice.

Thanks to the Competitive Draft Lottery, the Royals are in a very good position come draft day. Should they take a chance on the Missouri Valley Southpaw? I can't say, but it is definitely an intriguing proposition and they clearly fit the profile for the type of team that will eventually select him.

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