Mike Morin was the first of the Angels crop of relief prospects to reach the Majors and he did not disappoint. Can he take another step forward in his sophomore year?
What happened in 2014?
Mike Morin nearly made the Angels out of Spring Training. He might as well have. The Halos had him start at Double-A where he lasted for five appearances before getting a promotion to Triple-A. He only made two appearances in Salt Lake before getting called up to the majors. This all happened by the end of April, so it isn’t as if Morin got a ton of seasoning in those seven appearances.
His ascension to the majors was one of the first big steps in the makeover of the Angels bullpen. Morin slowly but surely worked his way up the bullpen depth chart and spent much of the season as a quality middle reliever. Scioscia really found a niche for him by using Morin to be the guy that came in mid-inning to bail pitchers out of jams due to Morin’s ability to induce grounders, miss bats and not issue many walks.
The only real hiccup in his season was Morin stepping on some glass on the beach in Tampa, cutting his foot and necessitating a brief DL stint. When he came off the DL, he started having some command issues over the next few weeks. He seemed to get a handle on it right toward the end of the season, but it was a minor spot of concern for the rookie.
*The MWAH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research (my wOBA calculation is approximate because my math skills are only “meh”)
What do the projections think he will do in 2015?
Not so highly, it turns out. Steamer and ZiPS aren’t big fans. In fact, they more or less see him as a replacement level reliever. They see his strikeouts falling off and his home run rate nearly doubling. CAIRO is more optimistic, seeing him basically repeating what he did in 2014. I really wonder just how much this boils down to the projection systems not having much data to go on. Mike Morin was drafted in 2012 and played short-season ball in a rookie league. Then he played in High-A and Double-A in 2013 before jumping to the majors in 2014 with a cameo in the minors. There just isn’t much to go on, at least from what I would think, but I also am not an expert on how much data the respective systems need.
Does the Monkey agree or disagree?
If you read this site regularly, you know I love me some Mike Morin. He’s got an elite changeup, very good command and he’s only just scratching the surface. We’re talking about a kid who has one and half years of minor league time and then a trial by fire rookie season under his belt. Now that he’s firmly entrenched as a big leaguer, Morin can really focus on the finer points of his game and take it to the next level. Clearly I’m biased, but I am highly confident that Morin can pull it off and give the Angels a three-headed monster, along with Street and Smith, at the end of games for the Halos.
THREE OPEN QUESTIONS FOR MIKE MORIN IN 2015
1) Can Morin solve his platoon split problem?
In addition to the late season struggles, Morin’s issues with left-handed hitters was the other source for concern with him. From a power perspective, his splits are even, so it isn’t like lefties are taking him deep over and over. The problem is Morin just doesn’t fool lefties as much. He walked lefties 9.3% of the time versus 6.0% against righties. He’s got a 16.3% whiff rate against lefties versus 28.2% against righties. Couple that with a .333 BABIP for lefties versus a .230 BABIP for righties, and Morin just isn’t as effective against opposite side hitters.
Maybe some of that just proves to be bad BABIP luck, but the stark difference in whiff rates really speaks to how much better lefties see the ball off of Morin. That’s actually pretty unusual since someone with a strong changeup typically is able to neutralize opposite side hitters. Hopefully that just means he can correct things with better pitch sequencing, but if not, I’m not sure what he really will be able to do to address this weakness.
2) What will his role in the bullpen be in 2015?
Honestly, this answer depends heavily on how Morin addresses question #1. Morin is the most talented reliever on the staff after Smith and Street, so Morin would be the preferred candidate to assume the high leverage role vacated by Kevin Jepsen. However, he needs to earn some trust to get that role. Scioscia certainly seemed frustrated with Morin late in the season when Morin was having command issues, so it wasn’t like he was a lock for the job in the first place. If he somehow loses that gig, Morin should still be featured prominently in middle innings as more of a righty specialist and a guy who comes in mid-inning to escape a jam with a timely GIDP, just like last year. One could actually argue that he’s more valuable in that role, but I’m factoring in how Scioscia actually perceives bullpen role and values.
3) Should his changeup be registered as a deadly weapon?
Morin’s changeup is just filthy. He generated swings 62% of the time he threw it and generated a whiff on 25% of those swings. That was good for a .145 batting average against with just a .255 BABIP. Only two of the 12 hits he allowed on the change went for extra bases, both doubles. In other words, that’s a pretty good pitch.
The Final Word (and GIF)
I was going to post a picture of Morin’s changeup, but this is a family site and that GIF would be too pornographic for young children. Instead, you get this GIF of Morin making a diving catch to save Cron and Conger from a bumbling collision. Tee hee! Look at those guys run into each other! Now that’s some good PG-rated fun.