The Mariners have shown they have a type when it comes to pitching. They'll look for pure-stuff guys with relievers, but their type with starters includes command, control, and a willingness to embrace analytics. Michael Morales is the blueprint.
Morales has improved each year since joining the organization in 2021 as a highly touted high school arm. The 21-year-old righty brings a four-pitch mix that includes a fastball with late life up in the zone and a curveball and changeup being his best offerings.
He took a step forward this season, often going deeper into games, filling the innings-eater role for the Modesto Nuts, the California League champions. While this was a repeat season in the Low A for Morales, there are a few reasons for optimism, mainly improvements in some fundamental statistical areas.
Morales doesn't have the ceiling of George Kirby or Logan Gilbert, but he could undoubtedly fill the backend of a playoff contender's rotation, a la Chris Flexen or Doug Fister. According to Prospect Insider, Jason Churchill, "thanks to a four-pitch mix, and ability to go deep into games, Morales has a No. 4 ceiling." Good teams need guys like that, especially when they hit the dog days of summer.
The ability to command the baseball will be the key to Morales' ascent through the Mariners' farm system. If he can continue to improve when it comes to the organizational philiosphy of 'dominating the zone' we could see the young starter finish 2024 with the Arkansas Travelers.