A.J. MORRIS, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: December 1, 1986
Drafted: 4th Round, 112th Overall, 2009 (Nationals)
How Acquired: Rule 5 draft (minor league phase)
College: Kansas State University
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Nationals drafted Morris in the 4th round on the strength of a low-90s fastball with a great deal of movement and sink. He threw an average slider and a developing change. He moved to the bullpen partway through his first full year to address arm troubles and his velocity improved a bit to 93-94. Baseball America rated him among the Nats’ top 20 prospects after his first two seasons, but he missed his third year due to shoulder surgery before being traded to the Cubs. He doesn’t miss a lot of bats, but has had very high groundball rates in the minors. He hasn’t had a clear platoon split. The Pirates selected Morris in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.
After a couple outings in rookie ball, the Nationals sent Morris to low A for eight starts. He pitched mostly well, although he did have more hits allowed than innings pitched.
Morris opened in the Nationals’ high A rotation and posted a 3.15 ERA in 16 starts. He went out with a sore arm, though, and after rehabbing in the GCL he moved to the bullpen. His ERA in relief was 6.60, but his arm felt better and he gained a little velocity on his fastball.
Morris had shoulder surgery that cost him the entire season. After the season the Nats traded him to the Cubs for Tom Gorzelanny.
The Cubs sent Morris to high A, where he pitched strictly in relief. He allowed very few baserunners, although his K rate was ordinary.
Morris struggled in AA, allowing more hits than innings pitched and seeing a sudden increase in his walk rate.
The Pirates started Morris off in the Altoona bullpen, but he pitched his way into a starting job. He continued to pitch well for the Curve through the beginning of June, when the Pirates promoted him to Indianapolis. Morris pitched well in his first three AAA games, including a nine-inning shutout, but got shelled in his fourth game and then went on the disabled list with a forearm strain. He was out for over a month and then rehabbed his way back to AA for one game and AAA for three, which mostly didn’t go well. Overall, Morris was a strong groundball pitcher, as advertised. He had no meaningful platoon split.
Morris went unselected in the Rule 5 draft. He pitched in relief for Indianapolis, except for three spot starts. He pitched well, with solid to good numbers across the board, including only three HRs allowed. He held right-handed hitters to a .560 OPS, while left-handed hitters posted a .710 OPS against him. Over the course of the season, the Pirates called up several non-roster pitchers, but not Morris. This may (or may not) have been because they thought more highly of Morris than the others.
Morris’ situation is similar to that of Kris Johnson, another struggling former prospect who turned things around with the Pirates. After he made progress in his first year with them, the Pirates signed Johnson to a second minor league deal. Johnson reached the majors during that second season. Morris was with the Pirates for two years before becoming eligible for free agency. They could add him to the 40-man roster or they could try to re-sign him to a minor league contract.
|2015: Minor League Contract|
|Signing Bonus: $270,000
MiLB Debut: 2009
MLB Debut: N/A
MiLB FA Eligible: 2015
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: Eligible
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 3
MLB Service Time: 0.000
|June 10, 2009: Drafted by the Washington Nationals in the 4th round, 112th overall pick; signed on July 7.
January 17, 2011: Traded by the Washington Nationals with Michael Burgess and Graham Hicks to the Chicago Cubs for Tom Gorzelanny.
December 12, 2013: Selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft.