First basemen seem to be all the rave this off-season. My colleague Chris Clegg recently wrote a deep dive on one of the game’s fastest-rising prospects, Matt Mervis. What better way to follow up that piece than with another first-base prospect flying up boards in Kyle Manzardo.
All Kyle Manzardo did while at Washington State was hit baseballs. He hit them hard and consistently and has not missed a beat since being drafted by the Rays in the 2021 draft. An incredible 2022 season has people throughout the fantasy baseball world salivating at his potential. Should we be buying into the hype? We can find out by taking a deeper look at his contact and power tools to determine if Manzardo is the player you must own for 2023 and beyond!
Kyle Manzardo: 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Baseball Darling
Who is Kyle Manzardo?
2022 Stats(A+/AA) 397 PA/.327/.426/.617/22HR/81RBI/71R
Kyle Manzardo spent most of his age 21 season at High-A getting his first real taste of professional baseball. The Rays rewarded Manzardo’s domination with a promotion to Double-A where he was below the league-average age. The promotion didn’t affect him as he posted similar levels of power, contact, and plate discipline while reducing his strikeout rate.
Kyle Manzardo’s 2022 season was not just good, but one of the best in the Minor Leagues. Manzardo’s 172 wRC+ was second among qualified hitters in all the minor leagues. Manzardo trailed only the Giants’ Vaun Brown in that category, but Brown is three years older than him. What makes Manzardo so unique is his ability to contribute both power and average at such a young age.
Only three other minor leaguers batted at least .300, hit at least 20 home runs, and had a wRC+ of 150+ at age 21 years old or younger in the minors this season. The other two are Corbin Carroll and Elly De La Cruz; both of whom have at one point been considered the top prospect in baseball.
A hitter does not post those statistics in their first full season of professional baseball without having some serious talent and potential. Time to dig a little bit deeper and figure out exactly what parts of Manzardo’s game led to his success.
Kyle Manzardo’s Contact Skills
Scouts raved about Manzardo’s hit tool prior to the draft but by all accounts, it might be better than advertised. The 22-year-old has yet to hit under .300 at any level in his professional career. His swing is smooth and repeatable helping to make contact at a well above-average rate.
Kyle Manzardo lines a homer over the right field wall and we're up 3-0 after the first! pic.twitter.com/XDjM1RbihU
— Montgomery Biscuits (@BiscuitBaseball) August 30, 2022
During the 2022 season, Manzardo made contact at about an 80% rate. His contact rates are excellent, and he has a mature approach at the plate. Manzardo waits to find his pitch and limits his chase rate. This allows him to walk at a double-digit rate while striking out under 17% of the time. In 2022, Manzardo posted a swinging strike rate of just 7.6%. This made him one of just two players last season to post a rate below eight percent while hitting over 20 home runs at 22 years old or younger (the other being Logan O’Hoppe).
Although Manzardo’s numbers are still above average against lefties, he carries a small platoon risk. He mashes righties while coming back to earth against lefties. The power stays the same, but the average and contact skills take a step back. This is something to keep an eye on as Manzardo continues to develop.
Kyle Manzardo’s Power
Kyle Manzardo possesses a unique ability to make consistently hard contact. Manzardo posted a hard-hit rate of 43.3%. Relating this to the big leagues, this would rank fourth in all of baseball. His average exit velocity is 88.2mph. Not the highest mark in the Minor Leagues, but still above average which is around 86mph.
Although Manzardo makes contact at a high rate, his swing is designed to drive the ball into the gaps instead of over the fence. Manzardo has the raw power to easily clear 20 home runs, but he is more of a threat to hit 45 doubles than 30 home runs. Rather than coming out of his shoes to drive the ball out, Manzardo is comfortable sticking to what he knows best. With a contact-driven swing, he does not sell out for power but hits the ball where it is pitched. This might lead to fewer home runs, but makes Manzardo a better overall player.
Speaking of Manzardo’s swing, the simple stroke prevents him from posting elite max exit velocities. This speaks to how his big-league home run totals might not be as gaudy as one might think. Manzardo’s 90th percentile exit velocity was 102.6mph. The 90th percentile may not jump off the board, but it is still a solid number. Manzardo does not currently profile as a 30-home run bat, but still has plenty of power in the tank.
Kyle Manzardo’s Fantasy Baseball Outlook
At this point, the Rays are thin at first base. They traded away Ji-Man Choi to Pittsburgh, and FanGraphs currently projects Jonathan Aranda to be their primary first baseman to start 2023. Despite the lack of depth at the position, the Rays will likely be patient with Manzardo. He only played in 30 games at AA, and the Rays will likely want to see how he fares in AA and AAA in 2023. Although he is not currently on the Rays’ 40-man roster, he could make his debut during the second half of the season with the Rays.
Manzardo is not a bad dart throw in deeper redraft leagues. Kyle Manzardo is essentially free in drafts with an early ADP of 667. He is going behind first basemen like Bobby Dalbec, Eric Hosmer, and LaMonte Wade Jr. Manzardo possesses more upside than all three of those players if given the chance and could be worth the investment.
In terms of his dynasty outlook, I am beginning to pump the brakes a little bit. In several prospect mock drafts this off-season, Manzardo has been a top-ten pick. While I love the talent, the potential platoon splits I mentioned earlier concern me. The Rays organization adores analytics and loves to platoon players. Manzardo is talented enough to overcome the platoon concerns but should be viewed more as a top 30 fantasy baseball prospect than a top ten.
Featured Image by Chris Corr(@Chris_Studios on Twitter)