NYPL notes: Tigers' Manning relishes return

Top prospect dominant in two starts this season for Connecticut

Matt Manning made his 2017 debut nearly 300 days after his last competitive pitch in the Gulf Coast League. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)

By Craig Forde / Special to MiLB.com | June 28, 2017 1:03 PM ET

Last year, after being drafted with the ninth overall pick by Detroit, Matt Manning didn't have to wait long from the conclusion of his playing days at Sheldon High School in Sacramento to his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League.

The wait time between his debut season in the Gulf Coast to this year was much different, something the 19-year-old had yet to experience in his baseball life.

Nearly 300 days after his last competitive pitch of 2016, Manning hit the hill for the Connecticut Tigers, and eager to get his season underway, he proved more than ready to go.

"I was anticipating it a lot while being in extended for two months, after already being in Florida for a while," said the Tigers No. 1 prospect. "I was really anxious to get out and play in front of some people, in a different uniform, and go out and compete."

Manning thrilled in his first start for the Tigers, allowing just three hits and a walk over 4 1/3 innings while striking out nine, including the first five batters he would face and eight of the first nine.

While he did need 73 pitches to get that point, he was in total command of the zone, throwing 53 of those offerings for strikes.

"It was good," said Manning of finally getting back to business. "I enjoyed it. I took it in, was waiting for the moment and kind of just ran with it."

He kept on running in start number two, this time allowing just three hits and two walks, while striking out five over five innings to earn the first win of his professional career.

While continuing to gain confidence in his changeup, Manning, who has registered five 1-2-3 innings thus far, offers a power curveball and a high-90s fastball that he feels he has been able to control with much more dominance this season, even in those instances where he doesn't win the battle.

"I think my fastball command has been a lot better," said MLB.com's 62nd-ranked prospect. "I've had three walks, but they were competitive walks with a lot foul balls. Just competitive, I think I have confidence in all my pitches. I knew if I just go out there and throw the way I know I can throw, it's going to be positive results."

More than two years under the average age for the short-season league, Manning has seen a lot of differences in his short time in the New York-Penn League but feels that his ability to compete is allowing him to settle in nicely with his new club.

"It's a lot different," he said. "There's a lot of older guys I haven't played with. I think I fit in well. I think I'm competing well, so I'm going to see how far I can take it."

His results may very well dictate his ability to take it to the next level, which is something he will be ready for when and if the day comes this season, but Manning knows that he can only truly affect things by focusing on the next start, which now is only five days away, instead of 300.

"Right now, I'm just focused on what I'm doing, trying to get better with every game," said Manning. "If the higher-ups decide I'm ready for the next level, that would be great, but I'm just out here trying to get better. … I'm always excited for the next outing."

In brief

Keep Austin going: Austin Franklin, Tampa Bay's No. 12 prospect, has been strong out of the gate for Hudson Valley. In two starts, the 19-year-old has held the opposition to just four total hits and two earned runs over 9 1/3 innings. The 2016 third-rounder was unable to get out of the fifth inning in his second start as control issues creeped in and he walked six, but he was still able to force eight ground ball outs in the same start. Franklin, who struck out 40 over 43 1/3 innings during his debut with the Gulf Coast Rays last year, has 13 K's to his credit this season.

Lopez finds early results: State College catcher Joshua Lopez has proved to be the toughest out over the first week-plus of games. With 12 hits in his first 21 at-bats, the Spikes backstop has a league-leading slash line of .571/.609/.952 over five games. The Venezuela native had multi-hit efforts in each of his first four games and picked up a double in his fifth game to continue his modest, early season hit streak. Lopez has also had three multi-RBI games and had only struck out three times.

Power ball: The Auburn Doubledays raced to the top of the long-ball leaderboard, hitting 12 homers over their first eight games. Three teams sit behind them with seven apiece. The Doubledays have already matched their season total from 2016, doing so with nine separate players going deep. League leader Oliver Ortiz (4 HRs) is the only Auburn player with more than one homer. The most home runs by the Doubledays in the last decade were the 58 they hit in 2007.

Craig Forde is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More