Oakland A’s: Time for Sean Manaea to take the next step

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 29: Sean Manaea #55 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Cleveland Indians during their exhibition game at Las Vegas Ballpark on February 29, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Athletics defeated the Indians 8-6. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - FEBRUARY 29: Sean Manaea #55 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Cleveland Indians during their exhibition game at Las Vegas Ballpark on February 29, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Athletics defeated the Indians 8-6. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /
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Oakland A’s pitcher Sean Manaea has been a solid arm in the rotation. It is time for him to take the next step.

The 2018 campaign was supposed to be the springboard for Sean Manaea to become the Oakland A’s ace. He announced his presence quickly that season, firing a no hitter against the Red Sox on April 21, striking out ten batters while issuing just two walks. He followed that outing with four more hitless innings, setting the A’s team record in the process.

Overall that season, Manaea posted a 12-9 record, along with a 3.59 ERA and a 1.077 WHiP, striking out 108 batters with 32 walks in 160.2 innings. It was a strong step toward Manaea fulfilling his expected destiny as a top of the rotation arm…except that he required shoulder surgery in September to repair his labrum and create more room in his shoulder.

Originally expected to miss the entire 2019 campaign, Manaea came back earlier than anticipated. He made five starts in September, and did not appear to miss a beat. In those 29.2 innings, he allowed just four runs on 16 hits and seven walks, striking out 30 batters. Manaea was back, and better than ever.

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That performance was exactly what the A’s needed to see from their nominal ace. Manaea had been a solid pitcher, but appeared to be more of a middle of the rotation arm than a real ace. He had flashes of brilliance, such as that April in 2018, and his impressive comeback from surgery in 2019, but he needs more consistency.

For the A’s, that consistency is going to be key. Manaea is still the nominal ace of the rotation, although it would not be a surprise to see Jesus Luzardo take that mantle by the end of the season. Yet, if Manaea is going to be the second starter that Oakland needs, he has to take that next step.

It is possible that his return in 2019 was a step in that direction. Manaea appeared to be a different pitcher, closer to fulfilling that potential that made him a top prospect, and a coveted asset during the Royals run to the World Series.

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Sean Manaea needs to put it all together over a full season. While the Oakland A’s have seen flashes, it is time for him to take the next step.

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