Graduating to Better Things: Adam Morgan

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.

Brooksbaseball-Chart (4)

Brooksbaseball-Chart (6)

Brooksbaseball-Chart (5)

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.

The Future:

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.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

11 comments

  1. Travis

    I was looking at his GB%, and it almost looked like a typo. 30.6% doesn’t seem good. Lowest GB% and highest FB% among Phillies’ pitchers[not counting Franceour]. His HR/FB is actually lower than average; he gave up HRs not because of bad luck, but because he is such an extreme flyball pitcher. Maybe if he can improve his sinker he could get more ground balls.

    How many options does he have left?

    • Matt Winkelman

      He has two more minor league options (2015 was his first year on the 40 man roster)

  2. Romus

    Cannot understand why his lack of usage for the sinker or two-seamer, unless he does not have enough confidence in the pitch when it comes to command and control. Hopefully come ST, he will have picked up his velo a few ticks on his FB.

  3. Timber

    Morgan needs a fastball. His changeup has been a good weapon against righties, and his slider has toasted lefties. The release point on his four seamer is totally out of whack with the release points of his changeup and slider, so he’s tipping an already mediocre pitch. The release point on his 2 seamer (I’m not calling it a sinker because there’s no sink to it, but there is a good amount of tail) is more in line with the aforementioned two pitches. Tough to get a read on how effective a pitch it might be or how accurate he is with it since he’s only thrown it a handful of times, but it might be something worth exploring. With the similar release point to the other two pitches, the deception alone would play up all three pitches.

    • money

      Yes,Morgan had his warts,but he still seemed to have a better idea of how to pitch with just so so stuff than the so called experienced veterans Williams and Harang.
      Hopefully he has his injury history behind him and he can bring his game up a notch this year.He certainly can pitch in the Phillies rotation if healthy. It not like we have the starters to match the Mets.

  4. Kurdt Kobeyn

    I still have high hopes for Morgan that he can be a better pitcher that Kendrick if health permits. Phillies is on rebuilding right now that they will exercise patience in evaluating talent and progession – Morgan being cheap helps him. Philles lack of LHP down in the pipeline might also work for Morgan since the top LHP Biddle and Joely continue to disappoint as SP.

    Next year will be key for Morgan – health and progression wise. If he can be a poor man’s version of Cliff Lee, then he can be part of the future. I don’t expect his FB velocity to go up higher than 91 MPH so his command of the pithes and the development of the CH and SL will be key for him in the next 2 years.

    • Romus

      KuKo…..agree …patience is the word with Morgan and maybe the velo does tick up with a stoinger shoulder in 2016.
      Will be interested in seeing how it transpires in 2017, if in fact the Phillies at 1.1 take Puk, and then with the 38/39th pick take another LHP, but see that as a HSer and overslotted since with Puk they can salvage more $$$ for the lower pick.
      Biddle is now two weeks out from TJ surgery and 2016 is rehabbing , so maybe August 2016 some mound work, and then 2016 FIL instructs will probably further rehabbing.
      Windle also could be stretched to start again, and then Imhof and Leibrandt can also factor in the LHP situation. But all of them seem to be, at this point and time, mid-to-lower rotation guys or relievers..

      • Kurdt Kobeyn

        @romus – as a fan i prefer Puk because he’s LHP and closer to the majors. But if I’m doing the drafting, i will look closer between Puk, Hansen, Groome, Pint or whoever and see the “best” option with the “minimal” risk. I want the Phils to hit the #1 pick (or picks in Rd1 to 3) in 2016 in regardless of position. I still want the Phils to gamble on some “riskier” prospects and it’s better done in Rd6 to Rd10 like the McWilliams and Pickett picks.

        Out of the LHP prospects, Biddle is the one I’m hoping to really succeed because he probably got the best stuff amongst the LHP prospects. Windle and Joely to me are best suited as long relief (and spot starts) or set up RPs. Imhof and Leibrant have the same Morgan-like ceiling, although Imhof probably has the best upside (he’s the one that can have a Keuchel/Lee-like – i know it’s a stretch, but its fun to dream).

        • Romus

          Yes…..concerning Biddle, his future after a TJ has some uncertainties. But his stuff is and was pretty good, just no control. Klentak I guess has already played his hand when he said they will look for “pitching, pitching and pitching”, and have to assume they have an abundance of close to the majors RHPs , they may lean left…Pul or Groome. I would hesitate on a HSer…..takes longer to get to the majors, though Kershaw made it faster then the average.

        • Steve

          Rom,
          I’m suprised to hear you say that you would hesitate on Groome just because he may take longer to get to the Majors. I understand Puk is projected to be very good, but I have also heard that Groome is projected to be very special. I think the Phillies have to pick the guy with the highest talent ceiling, not the closest proximity. I see 2018 as their first chance to make a run at the playoffs, and the projected rotation in 2018 already includes Nola, Thompson, Eflin, & Eickhoff. With a big time FA SP well within reason and Kilome and others having 2 more years under his belt, there rotation probably isn’t going to need a big boost. They could easily wait until 2020 for Groome to be called up and if he as special as some think he is it will be well worth the wait.

  5. Romus

    Matt…. from your sources….can you find out if the Phillies have any interest in a winter signing of Venezuelan 6’3″ LHP Alfredo Garcia-Barrios? I think he is still unsigned, and not sure what money they have left in surplus for this signing period.