I've had a shitty year when it comes to baseball predictions. I said the Tigers would be good (OOF!) I told you the Mariners would win the AL West, and I thought the Yankees would have the fourth-best team in the AL East. I've had to eat a lot of shit. Still, the one prediction I made that is holding a lot of water right now is that Alek Manoah of the Blue Jays would win the Cy Young. That prediction is looking pretty good right now. He has emerged for Toronto as the first true ace that they've had since Aaron Sanchez won an ERA title in 2016.
Manoah is an absolute wrecking ball of a pitcher. I said on Twitter a few weeks ago that he is the pitcher the Yankees thought they were getting when Joba Chamberlain came up through their system in the early to mid-2000s. He's a power pitcher with an absolutely nasty sinker/slider mix. He's also one of those starting pitchers who, up to this point, is one of the rare young pitchers who has never been bad. He had a solid rookie season a year ago, putting up a 3.22 ERA over 20 starts, and this season, he's been essentially unstoppable. Last night he pitched six scoreless against the Orioles, lowering his ERA to a league-best 1.67. He was probably better than his six scoreless frames reflected. Manager Charlie Montoyo decided to take Manoah out of the game after six innings because the game was well in hand.
I don't know what's in the water north of the border, but the Blue Jays, a team that plays in a division that features some of the most hitter-friendly parks in baseball, seems to know what they're doing with their starting pitching. Last season they had one of the best rotations in baseball, headlined by Cy Young winner Robbie Ray. This season, they continued to impress, with pitchers like Kevin Gausman and the aforementioned Manoah leading the way. Pitching coach Pete Walker seems to be pretty damn good at his job.
I find it odd how pitching prospects are evaluated. When I watch Alek Manoah pitch, I don't understand how anyone in the minor leagues ever hit him (in fairness, most didn't). But he wasn't considered a can't miss, top-ten prospect in baseball. And while he was a first-round pick in the 2019 draft, he never received the hype that lesser pitchers in his prospect class seemed to receive. I don't get it. The dude can deal.
The world crowned the Yankees the toast of the town in the AL East this year, and why not? They've played out of their minds and deserve the credit they've gotten, but the Blue Jays will make this a closer divisional race than people believe. Their offense, led by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has finally come alive. While the Yankees have dominated their competition, their schedule will get significantly harder as the summer goes on. These are two World Series caliber teams, and at the forefront of all that is a young pitcher in Alek Manoah, who has emerged as one of the game's best and is only twenty-four years old.