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Q: Scott writes:

Toby, did Akeel Morris really strike out ALL NINE batters he faced in 3 innings of work the other night?  Can you make even a brief post on what you saw and how he managed to do that?  Thanks.

A: Nope. Morris did not strike out all nine batters he faced on Wednesday night in Savannah. He fanned nine of eleven batters he faced. He allowed a leadoff walk in the sixth and then struck out the next three straight. In the seventh, he induced a flyball out and then struck out the next two. His eighth inning began with a strikeout/wild pitch combo and then he struck out the next three, two swinging, one looking for the fun four strikeout inning.

The Mets drafted Morris as a very raw arm in the 10th round of the 2010 draft out of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He had played very, very little organized baseball until he started auditioning for MLB teams in the run up to the draft itself. He's listed at 6'1", 170 lbs, and he's still rather slender by the standards of professional pitchers. He's a little dude with a live arm. In spring training he was regularly 92-94 mph and he has 96 in there when he maxes out. There's effort in his delivery, but he has a really quick arm so his four-seamer jumps on hitters. He uses the fastball a lot.

He showed something off-speed in that nine-strikeout performance. I'm not sure what it was - it was poorly defined. I was told he coming into the season, that he had a curve and slider.

Re-listening to my broadcast, eight of his nine strikeouts came on fastballs and one I did not identify. More than half were up or away. Right now, he's just blowing away SAL hitters.

It's taken four years for Morris to reach a-ball as he struggled to throw strikes as a starter in the Gulf Coast League in 2010, and the Appalachian League in 2011 and 2012. Even last year, when he was excellent in the Brooklyn bullpen, he walked over 12% of opposing hitters, the same as he did in the Appalachian League in 2012. The difference was that his strikeout rate hopped to 33% last year.

He's easily the best arm in the Savannah bullpen right now.

Morris needs to improve his fastball command and the breaking stuff needs plenty of work. He'll put up numbers in the SAL out of the bullpen strictly by blowing his fastball by guys. We see some relievers post big strikeout rates in the SAL every year. Out of the bullpen in his two outings, he's thrown strikes on 68% of his pitches. If he can maintain that over a few more moderate length relief outings, he could earn a starting spot or piggyback role where the innings would certainly be productive developmentally. I still think he's a reliever in the end, but even MLB relievers are usually starters in a-ball.


A: Quite possibly, but he's not going anywhere for a while. After turning 21 in March, he's off to a really nice start hitting .348/.516/.565 with two doubles and a homer with eight walks and seven strikeouts in 31 PA. If this spray chart is to be believed, he's using the whole field nicely. His homerun was pulled to rightfield, just like his two homers last year while his two doubles came from drives to left field. His singles have mostly been back up the middle and into centerfield. My preseason #6 prospect certainly has a chance to be in Binghamton by June.  

A: My preseason #16 prospect, I don't think the projection on deGrom has changed that dramatically, yet.

However, his two starts for Las Vegas have indeed been really good: 11 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 11 K. It's early, but he's missing bats in a way (26% of plate appearances) that he has not since leaving the SAL.

His power two-seam sinker (92-96 mph) and good command will get him to the big leagues. He's lean and long and the velocity comes relatively easily for him.

I've said for years that if he could develop and average or better breaking ball, he'd have a chance to start. I didn't think it was there at the end of 2013. A National League scout who saw him in Spring Training with a defined curve and slider thought either could get to that level and saw his ceiling as that of a Major League starter. Scouts I talked to who saw him in the past generally regarded him as a reliever.


If his strikeout rate stays elevated, and I get more good reports about his breaking stuff, I'll really start to believe he can be a big league starter.



Tags: Akeel Morris, Brandon Nimmo, Mailbag, Jacob deGrom , Toby Hyde
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