MWAH 2014 Angels Prospects Countdown #6: Mike Morin

Easily one of the fastest risers in the Angels farm system, Mike Morin has propelled himself to being a top prospect within the organization and could continue his meteoric rise by becoming a contributor at the big league level before the year is out.

Mike Morin
Position: RHP    Highest Level: Double-A
Bats: R    Throws: R    Height: 6'4"    Weight: 218
Age: 22    Born: 5/3/1991
2013 Rank: Unranked

2013 Season Stats
Advanced-A: 39.0 IP, 3-1, 13 SV, 1.85 ERA, 30 H, 5 BB, 2 HR, 43 SO, 2.12 FIP, .298 BABIP, 37.5 GB%
Double-A: 31.0 IP, 0-2, 10 SV, 2.03 ERA, 26 H, 5 BB, 2 HR, 33 SO, 2.59 FIP, .296 BABIP, 48.2 GB%
AFL: 13.1 IP, 0-1, 1 SV, 2.03 ERA, 7 H, 4 BB, 1 HR, 12 SO, 3.28 FIP, .171 BABIP


= C+
Morin isn’t going to “wow” anyone with his fastball, but it serves the purpose it’s intended, which is really just a setup pitch.  Morin’s fastball sits between 91-93, which is just a tick above average in terms of major league RHP fastballs go, and probably right at average as far as relievers go.  It’s actually quite refreshing to see an Angels RP prospect like this.  For so long, this organization has been consumed by the big fastball and slider combo that you see from so many relievers (Jepsen, Walden, Kohn, Alvarez, Bedrosian) that a BB/9 north of four has just become an acceptable byproduct.  Morin bucks this trend.  This isn’t to say that Mike is a soft-tosser, far from it.  We’re simply pointing out that there’s more substance to his success than a mid-high 90’s fastball.

Offspeed Pitches = A
Morin features without a doubt, the best changeup in the Angels system and possibly the best changeup in minor league baseball.  This is an “A+” pitch.  It ranks right up there with Fernando Rodney and Ryan Madson’s changeups, which in 2014 may not mean much but rewind a couple of years and you’d see these pitches were absolutely devastating.  Morin’s arm angle, arm speed and release do not change in the least, but the pitch takes more than 10 mph off and seems to drop and tail from the batter’s eyes to his knees and from one side of the plate to the other.  It’s really a video game pitch.  Mike also features a “get me over” curve that he can throw for strikes and keep hitters off balance and from keying on his fastball or change.

Control = A
Morin has no trouble whatsoever throwing strikes.  A sub-2 BB/9 and sub-1 WHIP for the year.  Just outstanding.

Command = A
This is really what makes Morin so lethal.  Like many great relievers, he’s a two-pitch pitcher for the most part.  The difference is, Morin can put any of his pitches anywhere he wants it, in any count.  Hitters can’t read him as a pitcher.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a fastball or off-speed pitch count, he’ll throw anything and he’ll throw it where batters can’t punish him for it, even if they do make contact.

Mechanics = A
I LOVE Mike Morin’s mechanics.  He’s the very definition of grace in pitching from the stretch.  He comes with high leg kick which helps him generates the necessary momentum, but it’s a very slow and deliberate movement.  It makes his low-90’s fastball absolutely explode out of his hand and truly jump on batters before they can make the necessary adjustments.  There’s no unnecessary jerking motions, his high three-quarters release shows no indication of future arm issues, he finishes his delivery in a smooth manner, no sudden stops which could lead to muscle pulls.

= A
Morin’s performance really couldn’t have been much better.  He not only skipped over A Ball, and passed up Advanced A and AA, he absolutely demolished the competition.  Quite frankly, this was the best relief pitching performance in a single season the Angels have had in a while, and that’s saying something because some reliever does something great every year.  As if his utter dominance over the competition wasn’t enough, he went to the Arizona Fall League and polished off his sterling season with another impressive showing against the game’s elite young talent.  The only thing that could’ve gone better in 2013 was Morin making an appearance in the majors, which likely would’ve happened if the Angels were actually in a playoff race.

Projection = B
This isn’t really a knock on Morin, but many scouts label him with the dreaded “setup man” or “middle reliever” simply because he doesn’t throw 95+.  While I understand the psychological need to categorize everything within our environment, I encourage all to not fall victim to such traditional “non-outside the box” lines of thinking.  When it comes down to it, the closer should be the best reliever, the one guy who you know will come in and shut down the opposition, close the door, end the game.  I don’t care if he does this with a 98 mph fastball or an 82 mph curve, what matters is the end result.  If we paid more attention to the end result, there’d be no scout in the country that’d doubt Morin’s a future closer.  Of course, the Angels tend to subscribe to such archaic ways of thought and will likely relegate Morin to a 7th or 8th inning role, but wherever he pitches, I have little doubt he’ll be a dominant force.

Grade as a Prospect = B
Morin is without a doubt a well above average prospect.  He isn’t elite because of a lack of high-90’s heat and the fact that he’s a reliever.  But as far as one inning specialists go, he’s right up there with the best in the minors.

Estimated MLB Arrival Date = 2014
The Angels bullpen as currently constructed, is about as deep as it can get.  It doesn’t mean all the options are necessarily great options, it just means there are lots of ways they can go.  What’s this mean for Morin?  Likely that the Angels will send him to AAA or AA to start the year.  But if Morin pitches like he did last year, he’ll force his way into the Angels bullpen sometime this year and seize a spot.  I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t believe Mike Morin will be a Major Leaguer in 2014.


2013 in Review*
Morin was drafted in the 12th round in 2012, got converted to relief and then turned in a fairly uninspiring year for Orem. Ho hum. But then 2013 rolled around and Morin and everything clicked at all once. Morin got to start the season at Inland Empire and was dominant from the jump. Morin's excellent command combined with his devastating changeup completely overmatched hitters.

That earned him a mid-season promotion to Double-A where he was a teeny, tiny bit less dominant. At both stops, Morin got to serve as closer for a time, so it became very clear early on that the Halos view him as a kid with legitimate end of game potential. That was hammered home even further when Morin was selected to play in the Arizona Fall League where he was, you guessed it, pretty dominant.

What is interesting about Morin is the way in which he is dominant. While fellow relief prospect R.J. Alvarez succeeds by blowing batters away with velocity and avoiding contact, Morin is a bit more subtle. His fastball is pretty standard, but his success comes from his ability to put pitches where he wants them and set up his outstanding changeup.

Morin can still miss a good amount of bats, but his best feature is that he doesn't self-inflict any wounds. Morin walked just 10 batters between Inland Empire and Arkansas, which is just tremendous. Even when Morin does get hit though, he doesn't get hit hard as he allowed a .088 ISO with the 66ers and a microscopic .062 ISO with the Travelers. Minimal free passes, very few extra base hits and a fanning a batter per inning is a pretty good recipe for late inning success.

Looking Ahead*
Morin is already being hyped as a dark horse to make the Angels Opening Day roster. That's not a crazy prediction as the second Morin reaches the majors he will have one of the best changeups for a reliever in the majors. My guess is that he will start the season in Triple-A though, but I think that is more a function of the Angel management wanting to figure out if they can get utility out of more established guys like Michael Kohn and Fernando Salas before they turn to the farm system.

There is little doubt though that Morin will get a chance in the bigs at some point in 2014. That doesn't mean he has nothing to work on though. His breaking ball could use some polish as it is basically a "show me" pitch at this point. He also needs to figure out his relative struggles against left-handed batters. With a changeup like his, he should not have such pronounced platoon splits. Versus lefties last season, he registered a .312/.336/.385 slash line. That might just be a function of a .434 BABIP versus lefties though as the rest of his peripherals look pretty good. If that does turn out to be a fluke, there is no reason to hold Morin back.

Even if it is a legitimate issue, Morin should have a lot of value at the big league level. The flip side of the big gap in platoon splits is that it means Morin murdered righties. Righties posted an absolutely absurd .157/.201/.236 slash line against Morin in 2013. At a minimum, that suggests Morin can serve as a bit of a specialist in the majors while he rounds out the rest of his game. All he needs is for the Angels to clear the path for him.

*As we do every year, the scouting reports and grades are provided by Scotty Allen while Garrett Wilson provides the 2013 in Review and Looking Ahead sections.

Scott Allen

About Scott Allen

Scott is a writer for The Outside Corner and writer/prospect expert at Monkey With A Halo can be followed on Twitter @ScottyA_MWAH