RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
||Born: March 28, 1987
Height: 6′ 3″
Drafted: 1st Round, 26th Overall, 2006
How Acquired: Trade (for Jason Bay)
College: Motlow State CC
Agent: James A. Kuzmich
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates acquired Morris in the three-way trade involving Jason Bay and Manny Ramirez. He was the youngest of the four players they got in the deal and, according to the Pirates, was the key player involved in the deal at their end. After the failure of the other three players they acquired (Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen), he’s the only return left from the trade. As a starter, Morris’ fastball sat in the low 90s, and he threw a plus curve. His change needed work, as did his command generally. After moving to the bullpen in 2011, his velocity improved to 93-94, sometimes a little higher, and he was throwing an upper-80s slider.
Showed great stuff but poor command in his debut in short season ball.
Missed season due to Tommy John surgery.
Morris pitched reasonably well in low A up until the trade. He went to Hickory after the trade, made three starts and struggled in the last two, then was shut down with pain in his right shoulder. The Pirates said there was no structural damage and did not expect it to be a serious problem.
Surgery on Morris’ big toe was expected to delay the start of his season, but the delay was longer than expected, until June, due to more shoulder problems. He stayed healthy once he was able to pitch for Lynchburg, but his performance was a major disappointment. He walked more than he fanned and opponents hit .295 against him. The one positive was that he allowed only two HRs. His stuff was still very good, but his command and mechanics were poor. He also got suspended by the team briefly due to a blowup with an umpire that was probably a sign of his frustration. He did pitch well in his one playoff start, winning the deciding game in the first round.
Morris turned things around dramatically, going back to high A and dominating. He made drastic improvement in his command. He continued to pitch very well after moving up to Altoona, going 4-2, 3.35 in his first eight starts. He hit a snag in July and struggled over most of his last eight starts. The Pirates attributed the problems to inconsistent mechanics, which may have been partly due to fatigue. He moved to the bullpen for his last few appearances, including the playoffs, to limit his innings. Even with his mediocre ERA in AA, he had a decent WHIP and a good K rate. Morris is a groundball pitcher and had groundout to air out ratios over 1.70 at both levels in 2010. Opponents in AA seem to have loaded their lineups with left-handed hitters against him, as he faced as many left-handed as right-handed hitters, but he actually allowed a higher average (.279 to .238) and one more HR to right-handed hitters.
Morris opened the season back in the Altoona rotation and struggled through three starts before going on the disabled list with an oblique injury. He returned in May, made a few relief appearances, and then struggled through three more starts before being moved to the bullpen for good in June. In his six starts he had a 6.04 ERA and nearly as many walks (16) as Ks (17) in 25.1 IP. He was much more successful in relief: 2.05 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 8.0 K/9. His command was still inconsistent, but his stuff improved. The Pirates hinted late in the season that he might get a callup, but that didn’t happen.
Morris pitched out of the bullpen in AAA and pitched very well the first three months, but started struggling a little the last two. His monthly opponents’ batting average was .211, .210 and .222 in April through June, but .278 and .281 in July and August. For the whole season, though, he had good numbers, including a groundout to air out ratio of 2-1. The Pirates called him up in mid-September, after Indianapolis was eliminated from the playoffs, and he got into five games. He pitched well, getting a lot of swings and misses, and mostly throwing strikes. His fastball sat close to 94 and reached 96.
The Pirates sent Morris to AAA to start the season. They did it to keep Chris Leroux, who was out of options, but Leroux struggled in the early going and the team soon decided to designate him for assignment and recall Morris. He made one more trip to AAA a few days later, but came up for good at the end of April when the Pirates released Jonathan Sanchez. Morris had an interesting and, ultimately, disappointing year. In the first half of the season, he rode a totally unsustainable .196 batting average on balls in play to a 2.72 ERA. A very low 5.9 K/9 provided a warning sign. In the second half, Morris’ BABIP ballooned to .318 and his ERA to 4.62. His fastball velocity remained good, averaging about 94, but he often struggled to throw strikes. He remained a strong groundball pitcher, but still gave up eight HRs. Despite his growing struggles in the second half, manager Clint Hurdle continued to profess confidence in Morris, but in September, Morris’ worst month, Hurdle became more reluctant to use him and he appeared in only seven games. He was, however, on the post-season roster.
Morris’ problems in 2013, especially the very low K rate, are puzzling. He’s still considered to have very good stuff, although his command is another issue. He went into spring training as the favorite of many Pirate fans — who seem to be completely unaware of the volatility of reliever performance — to be traded for little or nothing, or simply released. The Pirates, however, weren’t listening and Morris was one of the biggest stories in a largely uninspiring spring, adding a new two-seam fastball that he was able to throw in the mid-90s, reaching 97, and to use to produce both missed bats and groundballs. If Morris’ spring performance was for real, he still could end up as a late-inning option in relief.
|2014: Major League minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $1,325,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 9/14/2012
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2018
Rule 5 Eligible: Protected
Added to 40-Man: 11/20/2009
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
MLB Service Time: 1.011
|June 7, 2005: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 3rd round, 88th overall pick.
June 6, 2006: Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1st round, 26th overall pick; signed on June 19.
July 31, 2008: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Los Angeles Dodgers along with Andy LaRoche in a three team deal that also sent Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston, Manny Ramirez from Boston to Los Angeles, and Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen from Boston to Pittsburgh.
November 20, 2009: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.