Finding gems on the fantasy baseball waiver wire this late into the MLB season could mean the difference between winning and losing your league. Based on how Matt Manning has pitched lately, it looks like the Detroit Tigers starter might be one of those late-season fantasy baseball sleepers and clutch waiver wire pickups. Manning is in the midst of an impressive stretch of starts and he’s quietly rising up fantasy baseball rankings and MLB projections. The former MLB top prospect could be worth a waiver wire add for the homestretch of the season, especially if you’re looking to replace players on the MLB injury report. Let’s take a closer look at Manning in the latest fantasy baseball player spotlight.


Matt Manning Fantasy Baseball Player Spotlight

Over seven starts this season, Manning has a 2.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, .229 BAA, and a 31:9 K:BB ratio across 38 innings for the Tigers. People may have forgotten about the Detroit starter because of his poor 2021 campaign and then lengthy mid-season absence in 2022. Even if you have paid attention, it’s time we all take Manning seriously when it comes to adding him to our fantasy baseball teams. He’s only rostered in 23% of leagues on Yahoo Fantasy as of Sunday night and could be a popular streamer for the final portion of this season. 

Manning began the 2022 season in the Detroit rotation but then hit the Injured List in mid-April with shoulder inflammation. After rehabbing and making some minor-league starts over the summer, the 24-year-old returned to the big leagues at the start of August and has hit a hot streak. He’s compiled a 2.40 ERA over five outings this month, including three quality starts and two shutout appearances. 

Manning capped off his impressive month of August with six shutout innings and a career-high eight strikeouts on August 24th against the Giants. That’s now three of his last four starts that saw at least six strikeouts, one or zero runs allowed, and six innings pitched. We’ll gladly take that all day for fantasy purposes. 

One slight worry to this point, though, are his drastic home/road splits. Manning has a stellar 0.69 ERA, 0.65 WHIP, .144 BAA, and 23:4 K:BB ratio over four home starts (26 innings). Meanwhile, he he has a 6.00 ERA, 2.08 WHIP, .400 BAA, and 8:5 K:BB ratio in three road outings (12 innings). It's a small sample size for both, but it's still a tad concerning that he's struggled so much on the road. At the same time, his home dominance is awesome to see and something to note moving forward. Check out his August game log to see the evidence:

8/2@ MIN53541
8/7vs. TB70437
8/13@ CWS541015
8/19vs. LAA71316
8/24vs. SF60508

When looking at some advanced metrics, Manning’s 3.23 FIP and 3.38 xERA suggest some regression could be coming to his stellar ERA – but not much in the grand scheme of things. The Tigers’ right-hander has a 20.3% strikeout rate, which could be better, but his 5.9% walk rate is very ideal for any starting pitcher. Plus, the K rate has been trending up as he’s racked up 26 punchouts in his last 25 innings. The last start against San Francisco also marked four straight outings of double-digit swinging strikes, which is something that happened only twice in his first 21 career outings. 

As for Manning’s previous career before this hot run in August, it’s been filled with ups and downs. The Tigers selected the California high schooler with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft. He eventually worked his way up to Double-A in 2019, where he posted a 2.56 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, .191 BAA, 28.3% K rate, and 7.2% walk rate. Manning was just starting to show off his top-end of the rotation stuff as just a 21-year-old back then. Then the 2020 minor-league season was canceled due to the COVID-19. 

In 2021, Manning struggled at Triple-A with an 8.07 ERA and 1.55 WHIP across seven starts. Despite those poor numbers, the Tigers still promoted him up to the big-league roster for the remainder of last season. Maybe it was out of necessity with the Detroit rotation dealing with injuries, or maybe it was the team just trying out younger players while scuffling in the second half. Either way, Manning’s 2021 MLB stat line wasn’t pretty. He had a 5.80 ERA and .151 WHIP over 18 starts with the Tigers.

So how did Manning turn the page from last season and bounce back to his current sub-3.00 ERA level? 

A big reason for Manning's turnaround is his vastly improved slider. Last year, he threw the slider just 15.2% of the time and it got rocked with a .371 batting average and .379 wOBA allowed on the pitch. Meanwhile, he relied heavily on his four-seamer and sinker with the fastballs making up a whopping 60.8% of his pitch repertoire. Those pitches also had subpar numbers against. What can you expect from a rookie pitcher that got thrown into the fire before he was ready?

Fast-forward to the 2022 season. Manning's slider has a .167 average and .172 wOBA against while being thrown at an increased rate of 23.1%. His slider also boasts a 37.5% K rate and 47% whiff rate this year. Those are some stellar numbers as Manning has developed a true out pitch that he simply didn't have a year ago.

This slider has clearly helped Manning become a bigger threat on the mound. He still throws the four-seam fastball 48% of the time this year, but the increased confidence in a legit breaking ball can go a long way. It's resulting in plenty of swings-and-misses this month which has coincided with that hot streak we talked about earlier. That's not a coincidence either. 

As for the rest of this season, we still have to take Manning's impressive August outings with a grain of salt. For one, he's had success against some inconsistent and strikeout-prone offenses like the Angels and Giants. Still, his seven shutout innings against the Rays is promising. Plus, as mentioned above, the road struggles thus far are something to monitor. If he continues to have bad starts away from Detroit, then he's not worth streaming. 

Looking at Manning's next starts, he's lined up to face the Mariners and Royals in a potential two-start week coming up. Even better, both starts will come at home where the youngster has been dominant. For that reason, look to add him off the waiver wire and stream this week as one of the better options if he can continue his home success. Though he is due for some negative regression, the Seattle and Kansas City offenses might not be the teams to light him up.


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