When our other prospect writers submit scouting reports, I will provide a short background and industry consensus tool grades. There are two reasons for this: 1) giving context to account for the writer seeing a bad outing (never threw his changeup, coming back from injury, etc.) and 2) not making him go on about the player’s background or speculate about what may have happened in other outings.
The writer still grades the tools based on what they saw, I’m just letting the reader know what he would’ve seen in many other games from this season, particularly with young players that may be fatigued late in the season. The grades are presented as present/future on the 20-80 scouting scale and very shortly I’ll publish a series going into more depth explaining these grades. -Kiley
Elliot Morris, RHP, Lake Elsinore Storm (SDP, High-A – most recently viewed 8/18 at Rancho)
Morris went in the 4th round in 2013 to the Angels out of a Washington junior college. He was traded to the Padres in the Huston Street deal this year. 6’4/210 righty has moved to High-A at age 22 in his full-season debut and has the stuff to be a big league contributor. Morris had Tommy John surgery in his past and his command limits him the bullpen for most scouts. That said, he has the stuff to start, with a plus fastball up to 96 mph, an above average slider and an average changeup. His ultimate role is likely as a 7th or 8th inning guy with enough stuff to go multiple innings if needed.
Fastball: 55/60, Slider, 50/55, Changeup: 45/50, Command: 40/45 -Kiley
Acquired along with a few other prospects in the Huston Street trade, Elliot Morris was considered to be the sleeper name. But with Morris continuing to make improvements and adjustments, he may ultimately end up as the best player dealt in this trade.
Morris seemed to be conserving his energy in the early going, displaying just an average fastball, but would ultimately ramp things up to 93-94 mph with life while touching 96 mph. He held the velocity just fine, too, as one would expect from a big, physical athlete.
I have seen Morris throw harder in the past, though, as he worked 95-96 mph with life for five innings in my first viewing. But since joining the Padres organization, however, he seems to have toned down the velocity in exchange for improved command and control. It’s an acceptable tradeoff for a potential starting pitcher to make, as 93-94 mph with life and precision is better than 95-96 with life and no precision.
With Morris sporting a largely maxed out wide-shouldered frame, there likely isn’t any additional velocity gains for him to tap into, so the half-grade improvement from present to future is solely factored on improved command.
Morris’ slider usage has decreased over time, but it is still a quality offering that will flash plus at times. The offering works in the mid-80s, normally coming in at 85-86 mph, with tightness and depth to its horizontal action.
The pitch possesses consistency and command, with some feel for manipulation of its shape. At times, he will shorten the slider’s bite to create more of a cutter look, allowing him to run it into the hands of left-handed batters.
Morris’ changeup has recently taken a significant step forward in terms of action, consistency, and confidence. The improvement gives Morris a much better chance to remain as a starting pitcher than he previously had.
He’s throwing the changeup more than ever, and there’s no reason for him not to given the results it has garnered. His general feel for the pitch is much improved, and he’s now showing better consistency in the arm speed and fade to its action.
Morris is showing a better feel for filling up the zone with improved command than he previously did, but the future command profile likely won’t reach solid-average. However, it should be just enough for him to stick as a starting pitcher.
The main reason for my lack of confidence stems from the visible effort in the delivery. There’s some head violence, too, but the head displacement has been significantly toned down from his outings earlier in the season. The same can be said for the leg kick and stride towards home plate, as two more areas of inconsistencies that have been improved. But the arm is still late getting into position, subsequently hindering his command and control.
At times, Morris will lose his front shoulder, opening up early and failing to stay loaded through release, which limits his ability to throw strikes to the arm side third of the plate. This also has him failing to flow into his lead arm.
Morris is atop my list of sleeper and under-the-radar prospects I have seen this season. He is a big, strong athlete with a wide-shouldered frame that is largely maxed out. The fastball velocity first caught my eye, as not many guys can hold 95-96 mph for five innings, and do it with plus life made it even more impressive. The slider always showed potential, but that only gave him two pitches without much feel for his craft.
But since being dealt to the Padres, Morris has made significant improvements and adjustments, while showing better command and a much improved changeup. The stuff is there for a mid-rotation arm, but it is more of a No. 4 starter that will look like a No. 3 at times due to the difficulty projecting the command.