Matt Manning

Matt Manning

Height: 6-6
Weight: 215 lbs
Age: 23
College: None
Detroit Tigers

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The ScoreEach AL team's biggest question this season

With the regular season opening up this week, we look at the biggest question facing each American League club in 2021: Baltimore Orioles: Can the young players take the next step?The Orioles are ready to turn the page on a rebuild that started in 2018. Ryan Mountcastle, who impressed as a rookie with a .878 OPS in 2020, and Anthony Santander will lead the offense until 2019 No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman is ready to join the mix. The trio gives Baltimore enough hope that the worst is over.Boston Red Sox: Can the pitching staff keep up?The Red Sox won't have any problems putting up runs this season. However, preventing their opponents from scoring will be a different story. There's still no firm timeline for Chris Sale's return from Tommy John surgery, and many questions remain about Eduardo Rodriguez's durability after he missed all of last season with a heart issue. Ditto for the often-injured Garrett Richards and Nathan Eovaldi. Ron Vesely / Getty Images Sport / GettyChicago White Sox: Are they ready to flip the switch?The White Sox are expected to be one of baseball's best teams after they landed top starter Lance Lynn and star closer Liam Hendriks in the offseason. Chicago's young core is oozing with talent, even after Eloy Jimenez suffered a potential season-ending chest injury. The young slugger's absence could open the door for top prospect Andrew Vaughn to become an everyday player. It's always easier to play when the expectations are low, but now Chicago is expected to win.Cleveland Indians: Who steps up in Lindor's absence? It's borderline impossible to replace a player like Francisco Lindor with one person. He's a legitimate five-tool player who hits, runs, and defends at an elite level, so Lindor's value will have to be pieced together to help complement Jose Ramirez. Andres Gimenez should be able to step in at shortstop, and he has enough speed to match or exceed Lindor's on the basepaths. However, questions remain about his bat. Former Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario, powerhouse Franmil Reyes, and postseason standout Josh Naylor are the most immediate options to make up for Lindor's absence.Detroit Tigers: How far away are they from contending?Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize represent a step toward the envisioned rotation that will lead the Tigers back to the postseason. Matt Manning should eventually help form a trio of young arms, and Spencer Torkelson - last summer's first overall pick - could skyrocket through the minors. Still, 2021 will be a year of calibration to determine if players like Willi Castro, Victor Reyes, Jeimer Candelario, and Nomar Mazara - among others - are long-term pieces or eventual trade fodder. Playoff contention is now less of an abstract concept in Detroit, but it's probably a couple of years away. Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / GettyHouston Astros: Will Tucker and Alvarez become stars?The Astros need to fill the void left by George Springer after they let him walk in free agency. Yordan Alvarez looked like the second coming of David Ortiz when he blasted 27 homers in 87 games during his AL Rookie of the Year campaign in 2019. He missed most of 2020 after undergoing a pair of surgeries. Kyle Tucker, one of the club's most highly hyped prospects for years, had his own breakout season last summer and is poised to join the upper echelon of big-league talent. Houston won't miss Springer much if both can live up to expectations.Kansas City Royals: Can they disrupt the playoff picture?The Royals have a chance to surprise a lot of people in 2021. Kansas City's lineup is deep thanks to offseason acquisitions Andrew Benintendi and Carlos Santana, and the starting rotation improved with the addition of former All-Star Mike Minor. However, the bullpen will need some nostalgic performances from Greg Holland and Wade Davis to tread water.Los Angeles Angels: Can Ohtani hold up over a full season?While conventional wisdom suggests avoiding putting too much stock into spring numbers, it's impossible not to get excited about Shohei Ohtani's performance. He's batting .571 with a 1.701 OPS and five home runs in 32 plate appearances. Ohtani's been shakier on the mound (7.88 ERA in three starts) but he's struck out 14 in eight innings and his fastball is hitting 102 mph. There's room for growth, but the hope of Ohtani being a legitimate two-way star has not been extinguished.Minnesota Twins: Will they finally get over the postseason hump?The Twins seem to fall apart as soon as the regular season ends. Minnesota has lost 18 consecutive postseason games dating back to Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS. The lineup is largely the same as last year's, only without longtime outfielder Eddie Rosario. With the White Sox surging in the Central, it remains to be seen if the additions of Andrelton Simmons, J.A. Happ, Matt Shoemaker, and Alex Colome - and eventually outfield prospect Alex Kirilloff - will be enough to keep pace. Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport / GettyNew York Yankees: Can the big boys stay healthy?The Yankees have been profoundly unlucky when it comes to injuries in recent seasons, and things are already looking shaky. Reigning home run champ Luke Voit will miss at least the first month of the season with a partially torn meniscus in his left knee. This follows Zack Britton's elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. The Bombers still have a murderers' row but the injury bug has bitten the likes of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Hicks with regularity, so nothing can be taken for granted. If they can avoid the injured list, it will go a long way toward the team's pursuit of its first AL pennant in over a decade.Oakland Athletics: Can they repeat as AL West champions?The Athletics are going to have to fight off the Astros and Angels for another division crown. Oakland downgraded at shortstop and closer after replacing Marcus Semien and Liam Hendriks with Elvis Andrus and Trevor Rosenthal. The team has enough talent to finish first again, but it's going to be a tight race.Seattle Mariners: How much impact will Kelenic have when he's promoted?Even though Jarred Kelenic was briefly sidelined by a leg injury early in camp, the 21-year-old hardly missed a step. He went 6-for-20 with two homers and four walks to only one strikeout over 10 spring games. Kelenic has only played in 173 minor-league contests since being drafted in 2018 but he looks the part of a major leaguer. If reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis is sidelined longer than expected by a knee injury, Kelenic may get the call early on. Expect it to be permanent if he does. Mark Brown / Getty Images Sport / GettyTampa Bay Rays: How much can they get from Archer, Hill, Wacha?The Rays have a reputation for turning water into wine, but Chris Archer, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha are not even close to the type of pitchers Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are. Tampa Bay's new additions have struggled to stay on the field over the last few years due to injuries. The club will need to get creative to keep up in a division with three top offenses.Texas Rangers: How deep will the rebuild go?The Rangers are expected to be one of the worst teams this season. So, all eyes will be on Joey Gallo, who might end up being one of the top trade targets. Veterans on short-term deals such as David Dahl, Jordan Lyles, Mike Foltynewicz, and Kyle Gibson could also be moved for prospects if things quickly go south deep in the heart of Texas.Toronto Blue Jays: Who steps up behind Ryu?Robbie Ray and Nate Pearson are both nursing injuries, so Toronto's rotation options are even more limited than before. Steven Matz is the Blue Jays' next best option if he can expand on his spring performance. He's posted a 1.76 ERA while striking out 15 and walking just a pair over 15 1/3 innings. Ross Stripling finished with a strong spring outing Sunday, allowing one run over 5 2/3 innings. Otherwise, the Jays will be relying on Tanner Roark and likely either Anthony Kay or T.J. Zeuch as everyone else gets healthy.Copyright © 2021 Score Media Ventures Inc. All rights reserved. Certain content reproduced under license.

Source: The Score
Tuesday, Mar 30, 2021