Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk (A Reminder About Brandon Morrow)


The Mariners, as you well know, recently dealt young fireballer Brandon Morrow to the Blue Jays for a reliever and Wladimir Balentien lookalike. This move has been questioned by everyone from bloggers to the media to Jack Zduriencik’s own mother, and why not?  Z dealt one of the Mariners’ top pitching prospects to the Jays for, well, an underwhelming return.  Griffin didn’t understand the rationale behind it, Harrison didn’t like it, and I absolutely loathed it.  Initially.

For the last few days, I went back to my notes.  I could tell something was wrong with my premise – that a top pitching prospect is more valuable than a 27-year-old reliever and a Wlad Balentien 2.0.  Clearly Morrow’s value had been diminished by his poor handling (thanks, Bill), but there had to be something else on Jack Z’s mind to make him pull the plug on this deal, which epitomized “selling low.”

I found what I was looking for.  Victor Wang’s fantastic research reminds us all of something we know but that we don’t like to dwell on — a lot of minor league prospects bust.  In summary:

Prospect TypeTop 10Top 26-50Top 51-75Top 76-100B grade
“Bust rate”31%33%39%43%52%

Yes, Brandon Morrow can touch 100 mph on the radar gun.  Yes, his breaking pitches have amazing potential.  Yes, he 1-hit the Yankees.  But the numbers are still against him.  Morrow’s value lies in his potential, as he still can’t throw strikes or work deep into games with any sort of consistency.  And until he can do that, he’s worth nothing more than Brandon League and Johermyn Chavez.

It’s possible that Morrow goes off and wins 2 Cy Young awards in Toronto.  It’s also possible that he tears his rotator cuff while high-fiving Vernon Wells.  But remember: 31% of top 10 pitching prospects bust.  That’s 3 in 10.  Add the two years in which Morrow’s development was ravaged by Bill Bavasi into the mix and you’re looking at a very iffy pitching prospect.

And, as Matthew Carruth points out, Brandon League is no slouch himself.  That splange is nasty, if we are to believe pitch f/x (which we really should).

The conclusion that I arrived at is one I actually arrived at a few months ago (yay me).  To rely on future success from Brandon Morrow is a risky endeavor, and the Mariners have plenty of pitchers who can put up the numbers Morrow’s been putting up (and will in all likelihood continue to put up).  Jack Zduriencik seems to think Brandon Morrow isn’t worth his time, and I have little reason to disbelieve him.