It wasn't long ago that Indiana State left-hander Sean Manaea was considered to be a potential No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. Manaea dominated the Cape Cod League last summer, and scouts were enamored by the big lefty's size, velocity, slider and command. This season, a hip flexor issue has led to less-than-stellar results, and it's caused his draft stock to slip. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo writes that Manaea could be the biggest wild card in the draft and makes the near-impossible task of creating an accurate mock draft that much more difficult.
Mayo also spoke with Manaea's advisor — the infamous Scott Boras. Boras told Mayo that teams will not get Manaea at a discount if he falls in the draft, because the hip issue isn't serious nor is it permanent:
"I’m going to put a value on these kids, because medically, I know they’re fine. It’s illustrated it’s temporary and will be resolved. There’s no shoulder or elbow problem. He had a hip flexor problem. He was instructed, you can go pitch, you’re not going to hurt yourself.”
Boras suggested that it would be "crazy" for teams to let this issue get in the way of drafting Manaea. As many have come to expect from the always quotable Boras, he even tried to spin it as a positive by pointing out that the injury limited the mileage on Manaea's arm by limiting his innings.
In Mayo's most recent mock draft, he had Manaea going to the Cardinals at No. 19 overall. The recommended bonus for that slot, he notes, is $2.0558MM, but if Boras' comments are any indication, Manaea will require a far greater bonus to sign.
If he falls far enough, Manaea strikes me as an ideal target for a team that drafts a player who can be signed significantly below slot-value with its first pick. Should Manaea fall out of the first round, a team could employ a strategy similar to that of the Astros last season, when they signed Carlos Correa well below slot value at No. 1 overall and then landed Lance McCullers Jr. in the supplemental round and Rio Ruiz in the fourth round. All of that, of course, is speculation. As Mayo noted, Manaea argubaly represents the draft's biggest wild card.