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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Few pitchers in the Minor Leagues can succeed primarily with their fastball like Sean Manaea can. His heater was in fine form Friday night and he rode it to one of the top pitching performances in the Arizona Fall League this season.
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The Mesa Solar Sox left-hander fanned nine, the most in an AFL game this fall, and moved into a tie with Salt River Rafters right-hander Yoan Lopez for the overall strikeout lead with 26. In five innings, Manaea permitted just two hits and a walk — all in the fourth inning, when the Scottsdale Scorpions scored their lone run in an eventual 2-1 Mesa victory.
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Manaea’s fastball sat at 90-94 mph and touched 96, but velocity is just part of the package. His crossfire delivery and low-three-quarters arm slot produce run and sink and deception. Most of his strikeouts came on fastballs, and he also did a nice job of spinning his slider to both sides of the plate against a Scorpions lineup stacked with six right-handers and a switch-hitter.
“For the most part, I located well,” said Manaea, whose strike percentage (45 of 65 pitches, 69 percent) was his best in five AFL starts. “I got swings and misses with my fastball and worked off of that. Everything was going pretty well except for the fourth inning. I don’t know why, but I get lackadaisical at times and don’t attack hitters. I’ve got to keep moving forward and work out of that.”
A candidate to go No. 1 overall in the 2013 Draft before a hip injury waylaid him as a junior at Indiana State, Manaea slipped to the 34th pick but signed with the Royals for a supplemental first-round record $3.55 million. He joined the Athletics in July as the headline prospect in a trade for Ben Zobrist Jerseys. Manaea excited to learn in AFL A’s prospect Manaea looks forward to learning in AFLA’s prospect Sean Manaea shares his excitement for the opportunity to play and looks to use his time in the AFL as a learning experience
Manaea, the Athletics’ No. 3 prospect, posted a 1.90 ERA in Double-A after the deal and continued his success in the Texas League playoffs, allowing two runs in two starts to help Midland win the championship. He hasn’t been as dominant in the AFL, though his 4.71 ERA belies his 26/5 K/BB ratio in 21 innings. He said he’s pleased with the progress he has made.
“I’m trying to work on locating my fastball, working on my changeup, working on the mentality of throwing my slider,” Manaea said. “I cheap authentic jerseys from china came here to try to work on all of my pitches and I felt like I’ve done that pretty well, even if my ERA may not show it. I feel good about going into next year.”
A pair of Angels prospects teamed up to snap a 1-1 tie and produce the winning run for the Solar Sox in the eighth inning. Catcher Stephen McGee doubled with one out and scored on a two-out single by center fielder Chad Hinshaw. Hinshaw, the Angels’ No. 14 prospect, went 2-for-4 to improve his batting average to .353, fifth-best in the Fall League.
Despite the loss, Scottsdale (16-9) remained in first place in the East Division, two games ahead of the Salt River Rafters with five to play. Mesa, which has the worst record in the AFL at 7-19, won for just the third time in its last 12 games.