The Detroit Tigers selected Matt Manning ninth overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. He was the first first-round pick made by former GM AL Avila. He was a top prospect and was deemed part of a future rotation that could include the likes of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, Alex Faedo, and others.
Fast forward to 2023 — seven years after he was drafted — and we're still waiting to see the potential he had when he was 18 years old.
Manning just can't get himself right. He's made 40 starts in the big leagues, and has an ERA of 4.86, including 5.03 ERA in 2023.. He has been incredibly inconsistent.
Now to be fair, injuries have not helped his cause. He missed some time to begin the 2021 season, and missed significant time last year as well. He was hit in the foot by a line drive in his second start of the season this year, and that caused him to miss two months. He also missed a year of development because of the COVID-19 pandemic, in which he also battled the virus. He's had his fair share of bad luck.
But what he can control is how he pitches. His best pitch, ever since he was drafted, has been his fastball. While the velocity isn't what it used to be, the extension is still elite, thanks in large part to his 6-foot-6 frame.
Yet for some reason, he's been throwing that pitch less and less over the past few starts. He has started to throw his slider and curveball much more often, and the results have not good at all.
Yesterday's start against the Rays was a perfect example. He allowed eight runs, six of which were earned, on nine hits and allowed two homers. Seven of those nine hits came on breaking balls. He just refuse to make any adjustments.
Manning got off to such a good start when he first came off the IL because he was mixing in all his pitches. The fastball was still his primary pitch, but he was mixing in his breaking pitches very nicely. Now, he's only throwing his fastball about 40% of the time.
Manning has allowed 19 ER in his last 21.1 IP since he made this change. He had allowed 11 ER the previous 30 IP, included the 6.2 IP, no-hit performance against the Blue Jays — which might have been his best start as a big leaguer.
Every time it seems like Matt Manning is turning a corner, something else happens. It's always one step forward, three steps back for him. There have been many things throughout the course of his career that he couldn't control, but what he can control is his performance on the field.