What should the SF Giants expect from Sean Manaea in 2023?

Championship Series - San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four
Championship Series - San Diego Padres v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Four / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

When the offseason began, the SF Giants already had four starting pitchers under contract or team control for next season. Despite this, they added two veterans in Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea. Stripling is coming off of a strong season, whereas Manaea's performance dipped last year. What should the Giants expect from Manaea in 2023?

What should the SF Giants expect from Sean Manaea in 2023?

Both pitchers received identical contracts this winter for two years and $25 million with an opt-out after the first season. This is not what I would have expected when this offseason began given that Stripling and Manaea had vastly different seasons in 2022.

The left-handed hurler was traded from the Oakland A's to the San Diego Padres in exchange for two prospects just before the season began. The Padres were hoping to get a mid-rotation arm in Manaea, but that never came to fruition.

The veteran starter posted a 4.96 ERA, 4.53 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 8.9 K/9, and a 3.12 SO/W ratio in 30 appearances including 28 starts last year. The good news is that Manaea soaked up 158 innings, which is a promising sign given that he is joining a rotation that is high in injury risk.

The bad news is that he had the worst season of his career. And, his 1.7 HR/9 rate was the worst in baseball among pitchers with a minimum of 150 innings pitched. Manaea relied primarily on a sinker-changup combination with an occasional slider and curveball.

The sinker continued to be an effective pitch as opposing hitters posted a .247 batting average against it. However, hitters tallied a .306 batting average against the changeup. The expected batting average on his changeup was .260, so Manaea could have been the victim of bad luck. Will that improve with a defense that ranked as one of the worst in baseball last year? It is fair to be skeptical.

That said, Manaea struggled badly against right-handed hitters due in part to relying on his changeup. A switch to his sinker against righties could yield better results.

Nonetheless, Manaea has been a productive and durable pitcher throughout his career. The veteran southpaw has posted an ERA below four in three seasons and made at least 25 appearances in five of seven seasons.

The Giants are banking on the fact that his rough 2022 campaign was an outlier in an otherwise nice career. In fact, that are banking on that with pretty much all of their signings this offseason. So, what should the Giants expect from Manaea in 2023?

Fangraphs has published its 2023 Steamer projections for Manaea:

Innings pitched: 156

ERA: 4.06

FIP: 3.90

K/9: 8.41

SO/W: 3.31

HR/9: 1.18

So, the projections suggests that he is due for a modest rebound. Given the success the Giants have had with pitchers in recent seasons, it would not be too surprising to see Manaea pitch even better than that.

Those are good numbers for a back-end rotation arm and that is the role that Manaea could likely fulfill. The Giants have a 1-2-3 in Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, and Ross Stripling. They also have three veterans under contract including Manaea, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani.

After finishing the season on the injured list, it is tough to know exactly what the Giants can expect in terms of workload from Wood and DeSclafani. That is where Manaea comes into play. Despite six starters being under contract, the Giants still have a rotation that is high in injury risk.

Manaea provides some stability as a durable option, so could handle a heavy workload such as the 156 innings projected by Fangraphs. The Giants are betting on a rebound from the veteran hurler and Fangraphs agrees.