Prospect Update: Preston Morrison Adapts Again at New Level
One should never judge Preston Morrison by his performances in April. Last year at South Bend, he put up a 6.11 ERA during the first month of the season. He turned it around in May with a 2.66 ERA and followed that up in June at 0.83 mark.
That performance earned Morrison a mid-season promotion to Myrtle Beach, where he he a 1.77 ERA in six starts as a Pelican. The righty was one of the best pitchers in the Cubs’ system in 2016 across two levels, showing the Cubs enough to move up one more rung.
Morrison opened the season with AA Tennessee by posting an April ERA of 5.59, but he’s sitting at 1.88 here in May.
Ht/wt: 6-2, 185
Draft: Round 8
School: Texas Christian
Lack of Velocity
Command early in the year
I don’t know if concern is the right word, but I was pretty interested in seeing how Morrison’s repertoire fared against AA hitting. He has four pitches he can throw for strikes out of the same arm slot, so most hitters see what looks to be the same type of pitch from an almost sidearm delivery. His fastball sits 88-90 and has a nice side arm-run into a right-handed hitter. His curve comes in a little slower with 12-to-6 action. The slider has more of a 2-to-9 movement that frustrates left-handed hitters.
Because of the lack of velocity, I often wondered whether AA hitters would be able to figure out his “wiffleball” arsenal. Just like last year, though, Morrison has adapted very well to a new level. I expect him to continue doing just that over the next couple months. He is only 23 and I think the Cubs would like him to pitch between 120 to 130 innings at Tennessee, unless he is completely dominating by the middle of July.
Morrison is never going to be considered an elite prospect because of his lack of velocity. That said, I still think he can be a very good pitcher if he continues to grow and adjust to each new challenge as he goes through the system. It is fun to watch him pitch, as he has such great movement on his pitches.
Even though he struggled a bit earlier this year, opponents are only batting .210 against him. His home run rate is quite high compared to other years, but at 1.04 per 9 innings, it is slowly coming down from April. If his command is off just a little bit, he gets lit up.
Morrison’s walk rate, though, is the most glaring statistic compared to other years. Last year he walked 33 batters all season; this year he is already at 17 after just 43.1 innings. That 3.53 BB/9 ratio has to shrink fairly quickly, and that may be how we are going to measure his success in 2017.
I don’t think he has to have perfect command to succeed, but with four pitches between 78-90 mph, his control has to be excellent. Anything up in the zone becomes batting practice in AA.. When Morrison is in control, most hitters get extremely frustrated as the ball moves and darts at his will.
For now, I am digging his career arc and how adjusts quickly to each level. It’s only been a two-year career so far, and it’ll be exciting to see where he goes in the next two years.