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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, May 16, 2018 10:25 am

Pregame: TinCaps (15-22) vs. West Michigan (20-17)

Dylan Sinn | The Journal Gazette

The TinCaps couldn't get anything going on offense Tuesday night and will have their hands full again this afternoon. The Whitecaps send No. 2 Detroit Tigers prospect Matt Manning, a 6-foot-6 right-hander that also ranks No. 51 among all prospects, per MLB.com, to the mound.

Manning was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2016 draft and has some of the best stuff of any current pitching prospect, boasting a fastball that reaches 96 easily and a hard-breaking curveball that he can throw for strikes every so often. Manning was drafted out of high school and, at 20 years old, he's still refining his command and overall delivery. He sometimes struggles to throw strikes and his velocity isn't consistently upper 90s yet. When he's on, he's nearly unhittable, but he's been inconsistent this season.

His 2018 stats bear that out. The right-hander has struck out 26 batters in just 15 2/3 innings, an absolutely ridiculous figure, but has also walked 13 and posted a 5.17 ERA. The TinCaps have been prone to the strikeout this season, so expect some whiffs today, but if they can be patient and not swing too often at the breaking stuff out of the zone, they could score some runs against the highly-touted hurler.

Fort Wayne will send an interesting counter to the mound. This morning, the San Diego Padres made a roster move, sending struggling reliever Adrian Martinez to extended spring and promoting 18-year-old right-hander Luis Patino to the TinCaps to make the start today. Patino hasn't pitched above the Arizona League yet, but he was impressive there, posting a 2.48 ERA in 40 innings as a 17-year-old. If the Padres are giving him a Midwest League start this early, they must be seeing something they like.

MLB.com doesn't rank Patino among the Top 30 Padres prospects, but Fangraphs has him at No. 30 and rates both his fastball and slider as eventual plus pitches. The fastball already hits 95 and should get faster as he matures and builds on his 6-foot, 150-pound frame. For today, expect a fastball-heavy mix of pitches, with some sliders added in to keep the Whitecaps off balance. Even if Patino doesn't stick with Fort Wayne much beyond this start, expect him to be back here for good sooner rather than later.

As for Martinez, he was the obvious candidate to get sent down, as he hasn't really been able to get hitters out on a consistent basis this season. He's given up 10 runs in his last three appearances out of the bullpen and took the loss in Tuesday's game. He's struck out plenty of hitters, but has walked too many. If he can get his command issues fixed, he could be back later this summer.

dsinn@jg.net