Tigers tab tall power pitcher with No. 9 pick

Tigers tab tall power pitcher with No. 9 pick

DETROIT -- For the second straight year, the Tigers went the hard-throwing high school pitcher route with their top Draft pick. This one was a little bit bigger than expected, even with the ninth overall selection.

Matt Manning is a 6-foot-6 right-hander from Sheldon High School in Sacramento, Calif. His dad, Rich, is a former NBA center, 7 feet tall. But it was the athleticism as much as the size that drew the Tigers to the younger Manning.

He hasn't been a pitcher as long as others in the Draft, but the pitching he has done made an impression.

"He's a good athlete," Tigers scouting director Scott Pleis said. "I think we got a fresh arm, someone that maybe hasn't logged as many innings as maybe somebody who didn't play basketball. We're not concerned with the timetable. We know he's a good athlete and he's going to pick it up fast."

Manning told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM he was excited with the Tigers pick.

"I know it's a really good organization, really good at getting pitchers to the big leagues," Manning said. "I'm really excited."

The Draft continues Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET. The Tigers next pick in the fourth round.

Pleis on Manning selection

Manning was a two-sport standout who averaged 26 points per game in basketball before striking out 77 batters over 40 1/3 innings this spring. He's a late convert to pitching, but he has an arsenal that fits his tall frame, boasting a big fastball to go with a power curve and a changeup that will be a developing pitch for him.

Pleis said Manning's fastball topped out at 98 mph in pre-Draft workouts. Though pitchers that tall often struggle to repeat their delivery, sometimes requiring extra time to shore up mechanics, Pleis said Manning's athleticism as a basketball player helped him stay consistent.

"He's got a great body," Pleis said. "He's got a plus arm. There's just a lot of things to like about him. And we'll just see how he develops."

The numbers, frame and the workouts sent Manning rising up the prospect rankings as the Draft approached. MLBPipeline.com ranked him as the 11th-best prospect on its final list, up from just outside the top 20 earlier. He ranked as the fourth-best high school pitcher and the second-best right-hander.

He's also a coveted big man on the hardcourt. Manning has committed to play baseball and basketball at Loyola-Marymount, but the Tigers hope to woo him to join the young hurlers in their system, including last year's top pick, Beau Burrows.

Pleis said they don't take signability issues lightly, but looked into it before the pick. He said they're convinced baseball is his first sport.

"It's going be a family decision, but I know in my heart that I'm a baseball player," Manning told MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM. "I've been attracted to baseball since I was young. It's going to be a decision that my family is going to make, but I'm ready to make it."

This year's ninth overall pick carries a slot value of $3,505,800, though the Tigers have a relatively low draft pool of $5,424,300 after losing their second- and third-round selections as compensation for signing Jordan Zimmermann and Justin Upton.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.