Lefty Sean Manaea: The A's 'Samoan Randy Johnson'


Lefty Sean Manaea: The A's 'Samoan Randy Johnson'

MESA, Ariz. – By all accounts, Sean Manaea delivered Sunday.

The A’s prized pitching prospect impressed during his session off the mound, in front of an audience that included Oakland general manager David Forst and other front office officials.

He entertained with his look, sporting a can’t-miss hairdo that Manaea describes as a “Samo-fro.”

More than anything, he offered an up-close look at why Oakland’s brain trust was thrilled to land him in last summer’s trade that sent Ben Zobrist to Kansas City.

“There’s a lot to him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said after the A’s first workout of 2016. “There’s funk in his delivery, there’s extension. There’s the hair, the movement. There’s a lot with this guy to be excited about. You could understand what all the hoopla is about based on the fact that he looks to be a very talented guy with an assortment of pitches.”

[STIGLICH: Six A's prospects to watch during spring training]

Fans should temper their enthusiasm to a degree. Forst says it’s “unlikely” the 6-foot-5 lefty will break camp with the major league club, which isn’t a surprise to hear. But it’s very possible that at some point this season the A’s call on the 24-year-old Manaea, the team’s No. 2 prospect ranked by Baseball America. That same publication rates Manaea No. 48 among all major league prospects.

After coming over in the July 28 trade and joining Double-A Midland, Manaea dominated Texas League hitters to the tune of a 1.90 ERA over seven starts and 51 strikeouts in 42 2/3 innings. He followed up by leading the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts.

No one in Oakland’s camp knows Manaea better than minor league catcher Bruce Maxwell, who was behind the plate for many of his starts last year for Midland. The left-handed hitting Maxwell also faced Manaea when both played in a wood-bat summer league a few years back.

“He can snap you off a breaking ball that could end up in on you, or down and away on the ground,” Maxwell said. “But he can also throw a fastball at your chin or throw the same fastball down and away. He’s got so much versatility with the smoothness of his arm and delivery. It’s very difficult to catch a pattern.”

Describing Manaea’s three-quarters delivery, Maxwell drew a lofty comparison to describe Manaea’s ability to intimidate left-handed hitters.

[STIGLICH: Will 'dazzling' Manaea get shot at A's rotation in spring?]

“He’s a Samoan Randy Johnson. He has the long delivery, he’s got the size and the angle for everything. It makes things very, very tough.”

Injuries have limited Manaea since he was drafted out of Indiana State 34th overall by the Royals in 2013. He didn’t make his professional debut until 2014 following surgery to repair a torn labrum in his hip. His start to last season was delayed due to abdominal and groin injuries.

Scouting reports say Manaea still needs to sharpen his overall command. But he throws a fastball that touches the upper 90’s and complements it with a slider and changeup that he wants to hone this season as an effective third pitch.

“I know there’s a lot of great things that are happening right now,” he said. “I just need to keep a level head and do whatever I can to keep improving. To me, that means not letting my emotions get the best of me, even though there are a lot of people watching.”

A’s catcher Josh Phegley, who caught Manaea on Sunday, came away impressed with the lefty’s stuff. Phegley is from Terre Haute, Indiana, and he’d heard about his fellow Indiana native but had never seen Manaea before meeting him this spring.

His first impression of the hairstyle?

[RELATED: Three A’s named to Top 100 Prospects list]

“Not anything that I’d imagined,” Phegley admitted, “especially a guy from Indiana.”

Manaea said he’s been letting his hair grow out since May, which jibes with his laid-back and fun-loving nature. Midland pitching coach John Wasdin said he peaked out of his office last season and saw Manaea piecing together a Lego set at his locker.

Maxwell confirms.

“We went to an aquarium in Corpus Christi when we were down there, and he bought a submarine Lego set. It was hilarious.

“He likes to think, put stuff together. Honestly, I think just that little quirk of his helps him on the mound. He’s good with situations. He’s not a newcomer when it comes to complex thinking.”

Evaluating the A's arbitration decisions: Cory Gearrin


Evaluating the A's arbitration decisions: Cory Gearrin

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

The A's acquired RHP Cory Gearrin from Texas in August for minor league pitchers Abdiel Mendoza and Teodoro Ortega. Gearrin pitched just six innings for Oakland, allowing four earned runs on 10 hits, with two strikeouts and two walks.

For the season, the 32-year-old went 2-1 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.34 WHIP between San Francisco, Texas, and Oakland. He has a career ERA of 3.54 over seven major league seasons.

Gearrin earned $1.675 million in 2018 and is projected to get $2.4 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Gearrin has proven to be a solid veteran reliever and a team can never have too much depth in the bullpen. He will turn 33 in April and figures to have at least a few good seasons remaining.

With fellow veteran relievers Jeurys Familia, Fernando Rodney, and Shawn Kelley unlikely to return, Gearrin could have a role in the A's pen as a setup man for closer Blake Treinen.

Why he might be too pricey

If the number really is as high as $2.4 million, it would be a lot to pay for a depth option like Gearrin. While his numbers have been decent, the A's have younger and cheaper options in Lou Trivino and J.B. Wendelken. Oakland may be better off using that $2.4 million on other pitching help, or for re-signing other key players.


It seems highly unlikely that Gearrin will return in 2019, especially for $2.4 million. The A's already have a deep bullpen and don't really have a need for Gearrin. Treinen, Wendelken, Trivino, Ryan Buchter, and Yusmeiro Petit all provide more value than Gearrin, and it would be hard to justify giving $2.4 million to your sixth best relief pitcher. Expect Oakland to move on without the 32-year-old right-hander.

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Sean Manaea

Evaluating A's arbitration in 2018 MLB offseason: Sean Manaea

(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)

Sean Manaea was having the best season of his career before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery, which is expected to keep him out for most, if not all, of 2019 as well.

Manaea, 26, went 12-9 with a 3.59 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 27 starts, striking out 108 and walking 32. The left-hander was the ace of the A's staff for most of the season, and he threw his first career no-hitter on April 21 against the league-leading Boston Red Sox.

Manaea earned just $550K in his third Major League season, but he is projected to get a raise to $3.8 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

Why he might be a bargain

Even though Manaea is expected to miss the vast majority of the 2019 season, it's a no-brainer for the A's to keep him. At 26 years old, he has plenty of good years in front of him, and he proved he can be a top of the rotation type pitcher.

Manaea has said his shoulder bothered him for the entire season, and yet he was still able to post excellent numbers and throw a no-hitter. His velocity was down for much of the season, likely due to his shoulder injury, but he learned how to utilize his secondary pitches and became a better all-around pitcher in the process. If he can get back to full healthy, he should be a number one or two starter on the A's for years to come.

Why he might be too pricey

The only way the A's would let Manaea go is if they believe he will not recover from the shoulder surgery. Spending $3.8 million on an injured pitcher obviously involves some risk, but based on all reports, his surgery went as well as they could have hoped.


Assuming Manaea's prognosis is good, he should remain in Oakland, not just in 2019, but for years to come. The left-hander has already developed into a top flight pitcher in the American League, and at the age of 26, he hasn't even hit his prime yet.

Manaea also fits in well in the A's clubhouse and feels very comfortable pitching in Oakland. He has a great relationship with the fans and in the community, and he can be a face of the franchise for several seasons.