After the 2012 season I ranked Adam Morgan as the 1B prospect in the system, he looked like he was all ready to be a part of a new Phillies pitching staff. He was dominant in Spring Training and looked to be in for a short stint in AAA before coming up as a rotation mainstay. It took two years of journey, but Morgan made it to the majors in 2015. His arrival may have been helped by some bad pitching from others, but his return from shoulder injuries has been little short of miraculous. Despite the numbers it is hard to not be anything but positive about Adam Morgan’s year.
What Was Written Before the Season:
45. Adam Morgan – LHP
Role: #4 Starter
Risk: Extreme – Following shoulder surgery, Adam Morgan has not yet had his stuff return to pre-injury form, additionally the history of pitchers successfully returning from shoulder injuries is poor.
Summary: It’s been a rough past two years for Adam Morgan. Out of spring training in 2013 he looked electric and on his way to being a rotation mainstay. In 2015 he will enter spring training having only thrown a handful of innings in the Arizona Fall League where his arsenal lacked impact and was very hittable. He hangs on at the back of a list because he is early in his return to the mound and there is a chance that the stuff continues to improve as he gets more innings under his belt. If he could ever return to his pre-injury form, he is a mid-rotation starter with an outside chance at three plus pitches. At this point the odds are better that he is a fringe LH reliever if he makes the major leagues.
What Happened in the Minors:
Stat Line: 68.1 IP 13 GS 4.74 ERA 7 HR 27 BB (8.7%) 33 K (10.7%)
There was a lot of rust and uncomfortable situations. Morgan was able to throw a straight fastball at 88-91 to start the year and pitch relatively deep into games. His slider started as a fringe pitch that would flash average at times, his changeup was mostly flat and relied purely on velocity separation, and his curveball still makes me cringe to think about. For the most part his job was to stay healthy and throw pitches, and he did that (he pitched 7 innings twice and top 95 pitches 5 times in 13 starts). His command was very poor at times and his “dominant” starts consistent of him just not having opposing team’s string together hits.
What Happened in the Majors:
Stat Line: 84.1 IP 15 GS 4.48 ERA 14 HR 17 BB (4.8%) 49 K (13.9%)
Major League Debut: June 21, 2015
By objective standards it was not a good debut season for Adam Morgan. His ERA was poor, his FIP was worse, as were anyone measurement on his on field success. He didn’t miss bats, he allowed a lot of home runs. What he did do was throw strikes and stay healthy. In 2013 Morgan threw 78.1 innings across two levels, in 2014 he threw 16.1 innings in Fall League, and in 2015 he threw 152.2 innings between AAA and the majors. His stuff did not waver over the course of the year and he held up without incident right up until the Phillies shut him down.
Morgan’s fastball averaged close to 90 mph in the majors, his changeup showed average potential (mirroring FB movement with velocity separation and drop), and his slider looked like an above average to plus pitch. The slider is what I want to talk about here. To do that I am going to display 3 graphs from Brooks Baseball.
In order those are the velocity of Morgan’s pitches by inning, the percentage pitch usage, and finally the percentage of whiffs. We can mostly throw out the 7th inning on these graphs because the sample size is so small, so let’s focus mainly on innings 1-5 with some marginal interest in the 6th inning (Morgan reached the 6th in many starts but not all, and didn’t finish it each time). What we can see is that his slider drops off in velocity pretty steadily over the course of the game (much more than his fastball does), the pitch also loses some horizontal movement and becomes more slurvy. We also see that his number of whiffs on the pitch also decreases dramatically over the course of the game, although he throws more sliders in later innings. This means that as he fatigues, Morgan is losing the use of his strongest weapon, which likely contributes to his later inning struggles and early exits.
We are already in uncharted optimistic territory for Adam Morgan and his injury recovery, so asking for further improvement seems to be too much. However, that is where we are right now. Morgan’s stuff in 2015 is more deserving of a spot as AAA pitching depth, not a rotation spot. This offseason will be his first chance in a long time to rest and train without worry about being restricted. A full offseason could see his stuff tick up just enough to be a bit crisper and bit more precise, which should be enough to keep him employed at the back of a major league rotation. For now it looks like he has the inside track on a rotation spot out of Spring Training and the Phillies are likely to give him enough room to work through his rough patches. If he can’t stick in the rotation, the bullpen is a possibility, though it is more likely in some sort of fringy role. Overall I am cautiously optimistic about Morgan’s future because of how much has gone right to this point, and I can’t help but root for his success both as a fan of the Phillies and has a person.