The West Virginia baseball team has had a knack for producing top pitching talent from high school arms into professional baseball level players that take the league by storm. One of those top pitchers that has made a splash in major league baseball this season has been Toronto Blue Jays righty hurler Alek Manoah.
Manoah’s most recent start this past weekend was an obvious example of how far West Virginia pitching has come as Manoah faced off against former All-Star and former Mountaineer pitcher turned Baltimore Oriole pitcher, John Means. The ballgame saw Manoah earn the victory as he held a lowly Orioles lineup to a lone hit and one run over seven innings of work.
“I chose to go to West Virginia because it’s an extremely blue-collar school, and I believed in what they were doing, and I believed where they were going,” Manoah said. “Now, you look at four years after my freshman year there, and I’m pitching in the big leagues against John Means. … For me, it was a special day.”
The opposition on the day didn’t fare as well as Means only lasted three innings against a fiery Blue Jays lineup that features current All-Stars Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien. Manoah’s win however boosted his record in his rookie season to 9-2 and leveled his earned runs average at a steady 3.22 per nine frames.
The former Mountaineer arm in Manoah was a crucial leader in his time in Morgantown and helped propel West Virginia in the pitching department while only playing his freshman and sophomore seasons. The major leaguer was drafted with the 11th overall selection in the 2019 MLB Draft after departing the mountain state following a two-year career.
During Manoah’s sophomore season at West Virginia the hurler finished second on the team with 60 strikeouts and tied for eighth-most in a single season in number of games on the mound after appearing in 23 ballgames.
“I don’t believe that you can pick your leaders or pick team captains, you know?” WVU baseball head coach Randy Mazey said. “Those guys just kind of rise to the surface. The best leadership quality that I think guys can have is not only they’re doing the best of their ability, but they’re making players around them better. That’s what AK did. [When] he was in the dugout, if you weren’t playing hard, AK was gonna have a problem with that.”
After being drafted by Toronto in the 2019 Draft the righty experienced a very fast elevation to the top of the system and only threw 35 innings in the minors over a two-year span. His first stop in the minors came at single A ball with the Vancouver Canadians where he pitched 17 innings mainly in relief and took one loss while holding batters to 2.65 runs per nine.
This season in 2021 saw Manoah begin the year pitching for the Buffalo Bisons Triple-A affiliate where he collected three victories and lowered his ERA even further to 0.50. Only seven hits and one run through 18 innings was enough to promote the righty to the big-league club in Toronto early in the season in May.
Since the former Mountaineer has been in Toronto, or Buffalo depending on how you look at it, he’s been nothing short of brilliant collecting his nine wins and holding batters to 3.22 runs per start. In fact, the last part of this season Manoah went 4-0 and held opposing lineups to 16 runs through 43.2 innings.
Anybody can see how quickly Manoah shot to the top of baseball pitching in 2021 and should be hope for any Mountaineer pitcher past, present or future.