Manning likely would have played basketball and baseball at Loyola Marymount had the Tigers not taken him with the No. 9 pick in the 2016 Draft. The athleticism that made him a multisport standout as a high schooler has fueled his development as a pitcher. After climbing three levels up to Double-A in '18, Manning returned to the level to garner Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honors the following year, finishing in the top three in the circuit in WHIP, strikeouts and ERA. Manning was a standout during Detroit’s Summer Camp in '20 and continued to improve at the alternate training site before the Tigers shut him down in late August due to a right forearm strain.
Manning looks the part of a big league pitcher with his 6-foot-6 frame, athletic delivery and power stuff. He uses his size to create angle to the plate with his fastball, a consistent mid-to-upper-90s offering that topped out at 100 mph during Spring Training. Manning’s high-spin, downer curveball has long been a plus pitch for him, one that also plays nicely off his fastball, and he’s made noticeable strides in the last two years developing a changeup that could be above average. Manning’s ability to command his three-pitch mix is still in development, though he did demonstrate better control and command at Double-A (2.6 BB/9) in 2019 than he did the previous year (3.9 BB/9).
The Tigers have extreme confidence in Manning’s ability, viewing the right-hander as a future high-end big league starter. The delivery, changeup and overall command will all need to become more consistent for him to get to that point, but all the ingredients are there for Manning to reach his potential as No. 2 starter. He had already recovered from his forearm injury by the end of Detroit’s fall instructional league, putting him on track for a healthy start in 2021.
2020 Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 55 | Overall: 60
The son of former NBA player Rich Manning, Matt was a two-sport standout at Sheldon (Calif.) High and likely would have played both sports at Loyola Marymount had the Tigers not taken him with the No. 9 pick in the 2016 Draft. Viewed as a highly athletic, high-ceiling projection project upon entering pro ball, Manning instead has developed quickly while making an accelerated climb through Detroit's system. After pacing all Tigers farmhands in strikeouts (154) and climbing from Class A West Michigan to Double-A Erie as a 20-year-old in 2018, Manning returned to Erie last season to garner Eastern League Pitcher of the Year honors, finishing second in the circuit in WHIP (0.98) and strikeouts (148) and third in ERA (2.56). He was selected to his second straight SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game along the way.
Manning's athleticism on the mound is obvious. The 6-foot-6 right-hander gets big extension over his front side, which in turn enables him to both create angle and generate easy velocity with a fastball that sits at 92-95 mph and reaches 97. Manning's plus curveball, a spin-rate hammer with hard downer action, continues to be his primary out-pitch, though he did make major gains last season in developing a changeup that now projects as at least an above-average offering. He can induce whiffs and avoid barrels with all three pitches, and he demonstrated better control and command in Double-A (2.6 BB/9) than he did in his breakout 2018 campaign (3.9 BB/9).
Manning has worked hard to refine his delivery and repeat his mechanics since entering the pro ranks, and while the corresponding results certainly were better in 2019, club officials and scouts believe he'll improve even more given his age, athleticism and remaining physical projection. The Tigers have no reason to rush Manning's development, though he could very well force the organization's hand at some point in 2020 -- a year that should see a slew of promising Tigers pitching prospects reach the Majors. He has all the requisite components needed to become an impactful big league pitcher, with the ceiling of a No. 2 starter if it all clicks.
2019 Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
The Tigers knew that Manning might be a bit of a project when they signed him for slightly above slot value after taking him in the first round of the 2016 Draft. Manning's father, Rich, is a former NBA player, and Matt was a two-sport prep star who could have gone on to play both sports at Loyola-Marymount. After initially being eased into pro ball, Manning's development took flight in 2018 as he pitched his way from Class A to Double-A and led Tigers Minor Leaguers with 154 strikeouts as a 20-year-old.
The 6-foot-6 right-hander generates easy velocity, sitting in the low-90s and touching 95-96 mph, and his fastball plays up because he gets so much extension toward the plate. His power curve is a low-80s hammer that has the chance to be a plus pitch in the future, and while his changeup lags behind, he's shown some feel for it, giving him a third at-least-average offering at his disposal. He's capable of missing bats and inducing weak contact with all three pitches, especially his plus fastball-curveball pairing.
The Tigers have worked with Manning to clean up his mechanics and it's already led to better fastball command, though, overall, he's still learning to repeat his delivery and arm slot. Manning's athleticism and remaining physical projection should go a long way in helping him with that. He has as much upside as any pitcher in the Tigers' system, with athleticism, size and stuff that point to him becoming at least a mid-rotation starter.
2018 Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
The son of a former NBA player, Manning was a two-sport star who could have gone on to play both sports at Loyola-Marymount, and when the Tigers went slightly above pick value to sign him away from that commitment, they knew Manning might be a bit of a project. The Tigers have proceeded with understandable caution, holding the 6-foot-6 right-hander back in extended Spring Training to start his first full year of pro ball. He eventually pitched his way from short-season Connecticut to full-season West Michigan, capping his season off with a 10-strikeout performance in the Midwest League playoffs.
Manning has as much, if not more, upside than any pitcher in the Tigers system, but he also might have the farthest to go to reach it. As he works to refine his delivery, his command and velocity have fluctuated. When he's in sync, he's easily in the low-90s with the ability to touch 95-96 mph with ease. It's easy to dream on more consistent velocity as he figures things out. His power curve has the chance to be a plus pitch in the future, and while his changeup lags behind, he's shown some feel for it and it should give him a third at-least-average offering at his disposal.
Manning's command fluctuated largely because of mechanical flaws, which his athleticism should help him iron out as he progresses. It's going to take time, but the end product could very well be a frontline starter. Manning started the year on the disabled list with a minor oblique strain.
2017 Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 60 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
A two-sport star in high school who could have continued to play basketball at Loyola Marymount, Manning was thought to be the second-best high school right-hander in the Draft class, after Riley Pint, and the Tigers nabbed him No. 9 overall and gave him full pick value -- just north of $3.5 million -- to sign him.
Manning is the son of former NBA player Rich Manning and because of his split focus in high school, he's still a bit of a project on the mound. He uses his athleticism and 6-foot-6 frame on the mound exceptionally well, with his extension making his already-plus fastball get on hitters even faster. Manning was up in the 96-97 mph range during his senior year and in the Gulf Coast League, using his fastball and power curve to miss a ton of bats. He's shown some feel for his changeup, though he didn't throw it much in high school, and it has the chance to be a third at least average pitch in the future.
Manning was around the strike zone a lot during his pro debut and his athleticism should help him repeat his delivery. He gets high marks for his makeup and that, along with his stuff and projectability, give him the ceiling of a frontline starter.
2016 Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 50 | Changeup: 45 | Control: 50 | Overall: 55
The son of former NBA player Rich Manning, this 6-foot-6 right-hander was rushing up lists as the Draft approached in 2016, becoming the consensus second-best high school right-hander in the class, behind Riley Pint. The Tigers, never ones to shy away from arm strength, took the Northern California product No. 9 overall and signed him for $3,505,800, exact pick value for that slot.
Manning is a premium athlete, one who also played basketball in high school and could have played two sports at Loyola Marymount. He uses every inch of his frame to his advantage on the mound. Though he started late because his basketball team made a deep postseason run, Manning was nonetheless up to 96-97 mph with his fastball in early outings his senior year. He combines that with a hard, power curve that has very good bite to it. His changeup will be his third pitch, but he's shown some feel for it and it should be a viable option in the future, especially with pro instruction.
Manning's size, athleticism, stuff and projectability give him top-of-the-rotation potential. Now that he's focusing on baseball only, the sky might be the limit.