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2019 MLB Draft Prep: West Virginia

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Righthander Alek Manoah is a possible first-round draft pick.

Dale Sparks, WVU Athletics Communications

The West Virginia Mountaineers finished 9-15 in the Big 12 Conference last season. The good news is, the Big 12 is a major baseball circuit. Finishing seventh of nine is less than ideal. Why, then, do they get an article leading up to the draft? Because people like to ask about viable pitching options. West Virginia figures to use Alek Manoah every weekend in the 2019 season.

I somewhat prefer “viable pitching option” in discussions, as opposed to the oft-used ace. Requiring/expecting an ace from the 27th selection in a draft seems a bit unrealistic. It can happen, but a fan being upset over a late first-rounder providing “only” 23.0 WAR instead of 50 + over a career seems to be getting the lyrics wrong. If a pitcher from your draft class is successful, a viable guy in the rotation, you should be ecstatic.

The standard duration for a starter will likely be the season that lasts to or past the 6.000 seasons mark. If the Cubs draft an arm that is useful enough to reach the majors, pitch effectively, and stay healthy when there, that should be fine. Manoah is 6-6, 260. D1 Baseball pegs him at 91-94, touching 95. His second offering a a proper slider. Even if Manoah doesn’t end up as a MLB starter, that sounds really “closer” to me. I imagine whichever team selects him will prefer to develop him, and his curve and change, over rushing him through the system.

As a team, the Mountaineers are a bit more of a quick and grindy team than a power-based one. Kyle Gray (14 homers) and Jimmy Galusky (seven more) are gone to the pro ranks. Their mish-mash of an offensive unit might be good enough when Manoah (60 strikeouts in 54 2018 innings) is on-point.

If you’re a fan of “the ace-type pitcher,” Manoah might be what you want to watch.

As you would notice from the video, he pitched on The Cape last year. He started seven games, fanning 48 in 33⅓ innings.

A cool part with glomming onto a college pitcher is, you can make an assessment, and be wrong. Perhaps you assess him as a mid-rotation starter, and he’s a middle-leverage reliever. You process the data, and try again next February. Maybe you doubt he reaches Double-A Ball, and he becomes an All-Star. Re-calibrate, and try again.

Manoah against any valid college batting order ought to be a legitimate measuring stick, both ways. A hitter who gets three hits against Manoah jumps rounds and thousands of dollars in bonus money off of the feat. A seven-inning, one-run outing deems him more first-day valid. Especially with a pocketful of strikeouts.

Their first three games are against Georgia schools. if Manoah goes on Friday, he faces Kennesaw State. They play in Corvallis against Oregon State in week three. Manoah against the Beavers will be a realistic follow. It appears over half the games were audio streamed in 2018. A similar amount might be in 2019. Some may be video streamed, as well. However, if Manoah’s your guy, you’ll be able to find video. I’m confident that Oregon State will audio stream on the night of March first. Tune in through “Manoah against Rutschman” I might swing by for those at-bats.

The rest of the team is useful enough for D1 Baseball to give them a preseason rating of 22nd. That seems a bit lofty, but not if Manoah represents. MLB.com spots him at 38. He could be a valid first or second round Cubs choice, or could miss in either direction. If West Virginia is your team, anyway, it’s a good season to be proud, and perhaps take in a game in Morgantown. Plenty of good seats still available.

I’d guess four or five Mountaineers get drafted in 2019. Four were this past June. If they’re your team, or he’s your guy, I’d welcome updates every week. Hopefully, by now, a few of you have ideas on which teams intrigue you. If you still need some help, let me know what type of team you’re seeking. College games encourage fun, and playing for wins. Playing for wins is less important in the cactus league in February and March than in college.