To cap off the end of the 2009 season, I’m going to be counting down my list of the top 50 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ system. I’ll be counting down one prospect per day, with an extensive recap on each player, until I reach number one. Check out the previous installments:
13. Bryan Morris, RHP
2009 Season: The 2009 season was the first full season in the Pirates system for Bryan Morris, after coming over as a key piece in the Jason Bay trade the year before. It was a rocky year for Morris, who was injured, experienced an overhaul with his mechanics, and faced a suspension due to venting frustrations from the season.
Morris started out the season on the disabled list, experiencing shoulder inflammation, which sidelined him for about two months. Morris made his debut in high-A in June, but got off to a rocky start. In four starts in June, Morris had a 5.12 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP, a 3.3 K/9, and an 0.6 K/BB ratio in 19.1 innings pitched.
The month of July wasn’t much better for Morris. In six starts, Morris pitched 26.1 innings, allowing a 6.49 ERA, a 1.63 WHIP, a 4.8 K/9, and a 1.8 K/BB ratio. In his last start of the month, Morris pitched three innings, allowing three runs on four hits, with a walk and a strikeout. Morris got off to a good start, allowing just one hit and one walk in the first three innings, with no runs allowed. He ran in to trouble in the fourth inning, allowing a single, a triple, and a single to lead off the inning. The game was then suspended due to rain, which prompted an outburst from Morris, leading to his suspension.
While serving his suspension, Morris went to Bradenton to work on his pitching. He returned on August 12th with an excellent outing, pitching 6.2 innings with two runs on six hits. He followed that up with six shutout innings in his next start, allowing just three hits. Morris had just five quality starts in the 2009 season, and four of them came in his six starts after the suspension, with only one coming in the ten previous starts.
Perhaps the best outing by Morris was the one that sent Lynchburg to the Carolina League Championship Series. With the series tied at two games a piece, Morris took the mound for the deciding game, and pitched a gem. Morris allowed one run on seven hits in 6.2 innings, with one walk and one strikeout. The performance led Lynchburg to victory, allowing them to advance to the finals, where they would win the Carolina League championship.
Information: Morris was a first round pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2006 draft, taken with the 26th pick of the draft. Morris was the 29th rated prospect in the draft that year, a year after being selected by Tampa Bay in the third round.
Morris had a 5.13 ERA and a 1.74 WHIP in 59.2 innings in rookie ball, but his ratios looked excellent. Morris posted a 11.9 K/9, a 2.0 K/BB, and a 0.5 HR/9 ratio in that time. Unfortunately he was shut down with Tommy John surgery, and missed the entire 2007 season the next year. In 2008 Morris returned to the Dodgers, playing in low-A ball. Morris looked to be back to his old self, with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP in 81.2 innings, including a 7.9 K/9, a 2.3 K/BB, an a 0.6 HR/9 ratio.
It was probably because of this performance that the Pirates decided to trade for Morris in the Jason Bay deal. Morris struggled with the Pirates, posting a 5.02 ERA in 14.1 innings after the trade, and was shut down with a strained biceps injury.
Part of the problem with Morris is his delivery. He throws across his body with a hard motion, which puts a lot of strain on his arm, and that’s likely the source of his various arm issues. The Pirates worked with Morris this year on altering his mechanics in order to take the strain off of his arm. I asked Morris in September how the new mechanics were helping in regards to reducing injury issues, and Morris said that the new mechanics helped tremendously, with his shoulder and body feeling good after his starts.
The 2009 season was important for Morris. Even though the results looked horrible, the transition he went through was vital to any future success he may have. Morris changed his delivery, arm angle, and release point, which led to a lot of inconsistencies. Morris should improve on this new approach with more time spent pitching with the new mechanics. We may have already started to see some of the possibilities at the end of the season, with four of his final six starts going for quality starts.
Morris saw his velocity return to normal after the Tommy John surgery, sitting at 91-93 MPH, and touching 95. His best pitch is a hard, big breaking curveball. He’s 6′ 3″, 200 pounds, and turns
23 years old in March, which means it’s way too early to write him off. As for the suspension, I’ve seen the “head case” label thrown around. As someone who has talked to Morris, I can say that the incident in July was an isolated incident, and any assumptions made based off of that one incident are off-base.
2010 Expectations: Morris should start the 2010 season in Altoona, which might be a little aggressive, considering his overall numbers in high-A last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Morris has a breakout season in 2010, similar to what we saw from Brad Lincoln this past season.
Optimistic Projection: I think Morris has an excellent chance of being a solid middle of the rotation starter. I put this as an optimistic prediction because of his injury history.
Conservative Projection: Morris could be a back of the rotation starter or a hard throwing late inning reliever. If he doesn’t make it as a starter, I think Morris would be an excellent future candidate to close games. He’s got a good fastball, and his breaking ball would be an excellent out pitch.
Check back tomorrow for prospect number 12…