After striking out 58 hitters in 35 IP in his first taste of pro ball, Eli Morgan became a guy that I quickly took notice of. The 2017 8th round pick out of Gonzaga has continued to dominate A ball hitters into 2018. Despite the gaudy numbers, Morgan lacks the one number that excites industry writers. Fastball velocity. Morgan’s fastball sits 88-90 and he can touch 94. The lack of fastball velo will mean that very few in the industry will even mention him much less highlight the attributes that will lead Morgan to the big leagues.
Wait a sec? Big leagues? Aren’t you jumping the gun? This guy is in A ball! I can read the comments now. It seems that people would rather salivate over Michael Kopech’s 100 mph while he walks 6 per 9. Or maybe they want to rank Albert Abreu in the top 5 of a loaded Yankees top 30 because he throws 98, despite generating 1-2 swing and misses on his fastball per game. I get it. I really do. I like both those guys for now and I understand that when guys like Kopech and Abreu “figure it out” their stuff has the chance to be special.
However, I also really like guys that get the absolute best out of the stuff they have and no prospect encapsulates that quite like Eli Morgan. Listed at 5’10 190lbs, Morgan has a small frame with minimal to no body projection left. He will get stronger but he is what he is. Undersized.
Morgan throws three pitches. Fastball (FB), slider (SL), and a change-up (CH). His mechanics are pretty clean and he has great feel for his off-speed. His arm action is short and fast. Morgan excels at maintaining arm speed throwing the SL and CH which adds to his deception and allows his FB to play up. Speaking of the FB, Morgan generated 5 swing and miss strikes on his FB in a 3 inning start. He elevates the 4-seamer with 2 strikes and will change eye level while working both corners.
The CH sits 77-79 and is firm. He throws it with confidence and it is his best pitch. The CH generated 3 swing and misses and no hard contact. His SL sits 79-81 and is the weakest of his 3 pitches. It warrants mentioning that I saw Morgan’s worst start of his career. He lasted only 3 IP allowing 6 hits and 4 ER. Most of the damage came off the SL and with 2 strikes. It lacked bite and tilt and while the arm action was good, the Mudcat hitters were able to keep their hands back and bloop him to death. Of the 6 hits allowed, only 3 were hard, but two of those bloops were well placed doubles. So it’s possible that the SL is better based on his numbers but he could not put any hitters away with it last night.
Morgan also will mess with hitters timing. His first inning was stellar. He struck out the side – all 3 swinging – while mixing in a slide step/quick pitch that gave hitters problems. Once guys were on his base, he abandoned the quick pitch
One thing that I did not see was weak contact early in the count. Of his 9 outs, 6 were by strikeout and 3 were on flyballs. Of those 9 hitters, only 2 saw less than 3 pitches. Despite the ugly game numbers, there is a lot to like with Morgan. His feel for pitching, command, and three pitch mix give him a ceiling of SP4/5 and a floor of middle RP with a FV 45.