College baseball: Andrean grad among top draft prospects
By Brian Peloza Post-Tribune correspondent April 4, 2013 10:52PM
Updated: May 6, 2013 3:59PM
Indiana State junior Sean Manaea doesn’t lack confidence when he steps on the mound, a drastic change from two years ago.
“In my first year here I didn’t believe in myself at all,” said Manaea, an Andrean graduate. “I didn’t believe I was good.”
Now everybody believes he is good, with Baseball America ranking Manaea the No. 2 prospect for the 2013 Major League Baseball draft. His stock skyrocketed after a dominating performance in the Cape Cod League last summer, setting the modern record with 85 strikeouts in 571/3 innings pitched.
“(Manaea) had one of the best summers of any amateur, lighting up the Cape Cod League,” MLB.com draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo wrote, also ranking him the second-best prospect. “He’s not as polished ... but a 6-foot-5 lefty with that kind of arm strength is going to have many flocking to the Midwest in 2013.”
As the Sycamores’ top starter this season, over six starts Manaea (3-2) has posted a 1.14 ERA, 24th-best in the nation. He has struck out 46 and walked 13 over 391/3 innings of work.
“He’s really turned into a real strike thrower,” Indiana State coach Rick Heller said. “Which he wasn’t when he arrived. He was just a thrower that needed to be developed.”
At first, Heller expected Manaea to redshirt as a freshman, but he developed enough physically to consistently throw his fastball in the 87 to 90 mph range. So far this spring Manaea is throwing his fastball in the 93 to 95 mph range, and Heller expects that to climb somewhat once the weather warms up.
It’s likely the number of scouts watching Manaea each time on the mound will only grow, as well. Heller estimated 20-plus scouts watched Manaea throw during an intrasquad scrimmage earlier this season.
“It’s not easy to do what he does when you have 60 guys watching you warm up and watching you everywhere you go, but I think he’s done a great job with it,” Heller said. “He’s done an awesome job of just blocking it out.”
While highly unlikely, Manaea could return to Indiana State next season with one year of eligibility remaining. Manaea, though, has kept his focus on helping the Sycamores repeat as Missouri Valley Conference champions.
“I try to not really worry about (the draft potential),” Manaea said. “I just put it in the back of my head and go out and not worry about it right now, just go out and enjoy playing.”
Indiana State reliever Kurt Kudrecki, a Lake Central graduate, has experienced a similar confidence boost during his career. He has appeared in 11 games this season, pitching 192/3 innings and allowing 11 hits, striking out 19 and walking just five.
“I think Kurt has battled some demons with confidence issues when he got out here and I just don’t see it this year,” Heller said. “I see a guy with his chest sticking out and feeling good about himself.”
Kudrecki, who has a 1.37 ERA this season, pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning at Purdue on Wednesday, gaining the win as the Sycamores rallied for a 4-3 victory.
“It was the first game I had a lot of fans for so that was exciting,” said Kudrecki, who throws around 90-92 mph and has a good breaking ball.
Heller said he considered using Kudrecki as a starting pitcher this season, but quickly dropped that thought.
“We realized after a couple of weeks in the indoors that he’s just too valuable coming out of the bullpen if we can use him a couple of times a weekend,” Heller said.