2015 Phillies Report Card: Adam Morgan
There’s a neighborhood here in Washington, D.C. called Adams Morgan. There’s a bar there called Madam’s Organ. Clever, I know. A band I was in played open mic there once, circa 1999. We were in town for a gig at a private art show, where an artist who was trying to sell some of her pieces rented out a small space for an afternoon. The band was asked to dress all in black. It felt like a funeral when she sold literally zero works of art that afternoon. We all helped her pack up her things and she went off into whatever was next for an artist who couldn’t sell one single work in an afternoon.
That’s how it must feel for a pitcher when they tell him he needs shoulder surgery on the cusp of a big league promotion. He’s been working on his craft for years, getting better as he goes, to the point where he’s ready to show the world what he can do. And then it’s all goes to shit after an afternoon in an MRI machine and a doctor’s office. This was Adam Morgan, circa 2013.
That Adam Morgan pitched with the Phillies in 2015 is fairly remarkable. That he didn’t re-injure his surgically repaired left shoulder was a huge relief. That he made it through basically a full season and kept his velocity and mechanics as it went on is almost not believable. But it sure did happen.
Morgan was drafted in 2011, had a respectable summer in High-Rookie Williamsport, and was double jumped to Clearwater to begin 2012. He excelled there, was pretty good after a promotion to Reading mid-year, and was considered by many to be a #1 or #2 prospect in the Phils organization that winter. He started 2013 in big league camp, and was looked at as a guy who would, when he was ready, make his big league debut that summer. It didn’t work out that way.
He went down mid-year with shoulder issues, and the club tried to let him rest and rehab, and he came back later in the year, but his velocity was down and he had trouble with his control far more than he had pre-injury. Then in January of 2014, he had anterior rotator interval lesion surgery. I’m clearly not a medical expert, but that sounds bad. This wasn’t the full-on rotator cuff issue that has derailed many pitchers’ careers, but anytime you’re dealing with a shoulder surgery, the chances for a return to form drop dramatically. We were told that Morgan would return late in the year if all went well, and surely he did. He pitched some in instructs in Clearwater and then was sent to fall ball in Arizona. He pitched well enough there that I was actually a little bit hopeful he could make it through this issue and pitch in the big leagues.
And so, like a Phoenix rising from the Arizona Fall League, Adam Morgan came into 2015 with the same hopes. On June 21, after a decent showing in Lehigh Valley, he was called up to make his big league debut. He won that day, Father’s Day, and managed to put up a 5-7 record with a 4.48 ERA and retrodictors around 5.00. FanGraphs gives him credit for 0.4 WAR, BRef called it 0.9. And though he was held out of his last start of the year over workload concerns, he didn’t seem to tire as the year went on, despite throwing 152.2 regular season innings. Here’s a look at his velo and release point from BrooksBaseball.net – he seemed to be consistent with both throughout the year, with his vertical release point actually going up a little bit. That’s not at all indicative of a pitcher who’s tiring or straining to throw comfortably. That is great news for Morgan and the Phils.
Other results – his K rate was not terribly good, at just 13.9% but his BB rate was excellent at 4.8%, as he allowed just 17 free passes in ~84 MLB innings. An obvious weak spot, though? He also allowed 14 homers. If he can’t improve on that, he may be in for a rough ride going forward.
Whether Morgan has a spot in the Phillies 2016 rotation remains to be seen, but I would expect him to be there from day one, provided the club doesn’t buck expectations and add a couple of veteran free agents or jump a couple of guys from the minors into rotation spots. His 2015 showed a pitcher who may not be the mid-rotation starter he was lined up to be at one point, but one who can add value to a club now and perhaps be a useful piece for a contender, either on the field, or as a trade chip if he’s surpassed on the mound by superior arms.
Grade: C+, but his career is trending up.