Matt Manning: The Tigers Ace of the Future?

Over the last ten years, the Tigers have traded away the farm to remain competitive and chase that elusive World Series for owner Mike Illitch. These trades included heralded prospects or MLB regulars such as Willy Adames, David Paulino, Devon Travis, Andrew Miller, and Cameron Maybin. With these trades, it presented a win-first mentality that has left the current farm system bare. With the change to Al Avila as the GM in 2015, there has been a renewed focus on young talent. With the new focus on analytics, the way the Tigers do business has changed. With the lack of talent in the system currently and all that said, are there any sleeper candidates that you can stash in your dynasty minors’ system?

The answer is yes. Due to the last place finish in 2015, the Tigers were granted the #9 pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. With that, they added to the pitching riches at the bottom of the system with the addition of high school pitcher, Matt Manning. Manning is the typical right handed flamethrower that the Tigers crave. He is a tall pitcher, measuring in at 6’ 6’ and 190 pounds. With his frame, he was a two sport star in high school. With this versatility, he was committed to playing basketball at Loyola Marymount before being drafted and signing with the Tigers.

Manning spent his 2016 season playing as a starter in the Gulf Coast League, playing for the Tigers West team. He compiled an 0-2 record, while posting a respectable 3.99 ERA over 29.1 innings. He also tallied 46 strikeouts, 7 walks, and had a WHIP of 1.16. While these numbers weren’t as earth shattering as some could have hoped, they do show hope. Manning showed an ability to paint the strike zone and get outs with his fastball, which can get up to 97 MPH. He does need to work on a third pitch, which seems to be his curveball. Since he is only 19 years old, he still has plenty of time to get it perfect. His 2016 also allowed for him to land as my #2 Prospects1500 Tigers prospect, the #1 Tigers prospect in many other places, and as the #74 overall prospect for 2017.

2017 Outlook:

Manning looks to follow in the path of fellow youngster, Beau Burrows. He appears headed to the Tigers low-A affiliate, West Michigan Whitecaps, barring a major setback in Spring Training. I would look for him to build on his ERA, his strikeout totals, innings pitched, and his curveball as he adjusts to his first full season of pro ball. I would be shocked if he did not put up similar (or better) numbers to his 2016 campaign.

Fantasy Value:

As one of the higher Tigers prospects, I would definitely target Manning in your minor league drafts in your fantasy baseball dynasty league. He is definitely worth holding on to as a keeper, as I can definitely see him evolving to be the next Justin Verlander type ace for the team. Since he is 19, I don’t think he’ll touch the big league team until 2020 at the earliest, so don’t expect him to pay off for the next couple of seasons.

Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattManning19. I would love to discuss more about Matt’s exciting future within the Tigers organization. To continue the discussion, leave a comment or tweet me at @firedupchippewa.

Stay tuned for coverage on the Tigers prospects that could have an impact on your fantasy roster in 2017, as well as coverage on any trades that occur between now and Opening Day.

Nick Bradford is a writer for Prospects 1500 covering the Detroit Tigers. He resides in southeast Michigan with his wife and daughter. He is an avid fan of the Tigers, the Mudhens, and anything baseball (fantasy or MLB). He is a graduate of Central Michigan University and works as a support manager for a software company. Follow me on Twitter at @firedupchippewa.

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