Major League scouts compare Sean Manaea to White Sox ace Chris Sale.
The Andrean grad Manaea is a 6-foot-5 left-handed pitcher, Sale is a 6-6 lefty.
According to his coaches from high school and college, the comparison's end there.
"There are a lot of people who were asking me to describe him at times and really I can’t tell you a guy in the big league that reminds me of Sean," Indiana State head coach Rick Heller said. "The Sales kid with the White Sox is the closest, but even that he’s not a great description. I tell guys, too, that I don’t think he’s even come close to his potential, and his best years are going to be five, six years down the road."
"Personally, I've never seen a kid like him," his prep pitching coach Jim Nohos said. "To me, he doesn't look like Chris Sale. He doesn't look like anybody. He's going to be the first Sean Manaea."
Manaea's stock is on the rise, and the attention isn't going away.
After a successful end to his sophomore season, Manaea entered the Cape Cod League last summer considered a pick somewhere in the top 10 rounds in the draft. By the end of the summer, he has been projected to go somewhere in the top 10 in the first round.
He was named by Baseball America as the top prospect to come from the 2012 Cape Cod League. He pitched nine games last summer, started eight and finished with a 5-1 record.
"It all happened in the Cape," Andrean coach Dave Pishkur said. "He had a good year for Indiana State, but there wasn't so much attention until the summer. He went to the Cape, where all of these hitters were setting offensive records this summer, and he dominates. That's when people started to really notice. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was just stupid."
Pishkur isn't the only person to use the term "stupid" when comparing Manaea's 85 strikeouts to his seven walks in 51 2/3 innings pitched for the Hyannis Harbor Hawks.
"You knew more like late summer when his numbers are just stupid numbers in the strikeout-to-walk ratio and he was dominating the good hitters that were in the Cape and a lot of baseball people take a lot of stock of what goes on in the Cape, so we knew that was going to jump him up there," Heller said. "Physically, he looks the part. He’s worked hard, he’s strong, he’s got a great body, loose arm, all those things we saw at a young age that we thought he’d develop into he really had."
Here's what Manaea has to say about his success: "I definitely felt like with every start I gained a little confidence. I had confidence in every single pitch, which I wasn't doing in my first year in college."
Despite the 30 radar guns pointed at him during his pregame bullpen sessions, Manaea says he doesn't notice. Despite the 100 scouts in attendance when he pitched a complete-game win over Minnesota this season, Manaea has found his center balance.
"I block it all out and let my mom and dad watch for it," Manaea said. "They tell me every time they see something, but I don't. I try not to do that, because I don't want to put any of it in my head."
He hasn't changed a lick from the happy-go-lucky player that won a state championship with Andrean in 2010.
"Every time I talk to him, every time he comes home, he's the same kid," Nohos said. "He's got agents calling everyone he knows trying to get to his parents, he's going to make over a million dollars in June, and he's the same kid."
He's a completely different player on the mound.
"Describing him when he pitches is as a focused individual that knows the challenge that’s ahead of him and who is willing to accept the challenge with no excuses about it," ISU pitching coach Tyler Herbst said. "He has the effort and the ability there to be locked in and ready to compete and take on whoever’s in front of him, it doesn’t matter who it is.
"As a person, he’s kind of a happy-go-lucky guy who will tell a few jokes, hang out with the guys. He’s a laid back easy spirit. That’s about as far as that goes. His personality on the mound and his personality on the field are much different."
Coaches credit Manaea's undying work ethic with his success. When he signed with Indiana State, he was at-best Andrean's No. 2 pitcher behind Kenny Mahala in 2010.
"Even though he was not our No. 1, he had the best stuff on the team," Pishkur said. "He was the most overpowering, but he didn't have the best self control, and he wasn't the best fielder, and he didn't hold runners on very well. But, he also didn't walk guys and he could throw over the plate. Sean always had a bigger upside."
Herbst and the ISU coaching staff created a pitching regimen for Manaea, one that included more running, more work in the weight room and finding control of his pitches.
"When I first saw him he was a good, quality arm that needed time to develop and mature as a player," Herbst said. "That was my first recollection of watching him play. Obviously a lot has happened for him here in the past few years."