Phillies 2017 season grades: Adam Morgan finds himself in bullpen

DENVER, CO - JULY 7: Starting pitcher Adam Morgan
DENVER, CO - JULY 7: Starting pitcher Adam Morgan /

The Phillies seemed close to completely cutting ties with Adam Morgan before the season, but now he looks like a future piece of the bullpen.

Adam Morgan’s career with the Phillies has been for the most part a disappointment. Ranked as high as the No. 5 prospect in the system in 2012 by Baseball America – behind other studs like Jesse Biddle, Roman Quinn, Tommy Joseph, and Jonathan Pettibone – the hope was Morgan could at least prove to be a serviceable back-of-the-rotation arm after a shoulder injury caused him to miss all of 2014.

Unfortunately, Morgan was never able to reach those expectations. In 2015 he started 15 games with a 4.48 ERA and meager 13.9 percent strikeout rate. It wasn’t the worst debut, but it certainly didn’t leave you dreaming about his potential.

2016 was where Morgan’s stock took a nosedive as he posted an ERA of 6.04 in 23 games. Thanks to a seemingly endless string of injuries Morgan remained in the rotation one way or another, but it was safe to say Philadelphia would probably lose any game he started. Morgan had a 2-11 record while the Phils went 5-16 in his starts last year. He was so bad last year we here labeled him the “Cy Yuk” recipient for the team.

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Coming into 2017, Morgan seemed destined for a designation for assignment with much more talented rotation arms either already in the majors or knocking on the door. Perhaps the only reasons he managed to stay on the 40-man roster were that he was one of just two lefties at the major-league level along with the fact that his competition, Alec Asher, was traded to the Orioles just before the season started.

Morgan started the year in the major-league bullpen but was quickly sent back to Triple-A after giving up seven runs in his first two appearances. He shuttled back and forth between Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia in May before finally getting back on the major-league roster full-time in June.

Since his return to the majors, Morgan has shown much more potential in the bullpen than he ever did in the rotation. In 33 appearances from June 14 through the rest of the season, Morgan had a 2.84 ERA, 2.95 fielding-independent pitching, 1.11 WHIP, and 29.6 percent strikeout rate. Among relievers with 40 or more innings in that span, Morgan is 19th in FIP, 17th in strikeout rate, and 28th in WHIP.

What has helped Morgan perform so well is the fact that his stuff has played up coming out of the bullpen. His fastball is three miles per hour faster on average compared to last year while his slider has much more movement than it ever did before.

Morgan also credited his success to a change in mentality. Morgan told Jim Salibsury of CSN Philly that he focused on what he is better at as opposed to where the hitter struggles. If his stat line is any indication, that change worked.

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"“I focused on my strengths instead of the hitter’s weakness. I think I was tired of everybody telling me what my strengths were, like telling me how to pitch to be successful. People were trying to help me, but I think I just got exhausted with being a people pleaser and not taking care of myself and doing what I see as the right thing. I never lost confidence in my fastball even after surgery when it was 88 or 90. I feel like I’m pitching to my strengths. I don’t have to throw a curveball to this guy because he’s a crappy curveball hitter. I can get him out different ways.”"

Philadelphia Phillies. ADAM MORGAN. A. . RP

Considering how well Morgan performed this season, especially considering how poorly he did before, he deserves an “A” in my mind. With a much better arsenal and a newfound role in the bullpen, he should become a strong piece of the future Phillies bullpen.

Next: Phillies 2017 season grade: Second baseman Cesar Hernandez

Next season, it’s hard to argue that Morgan is an easy lock for a reliever spot. Some of the best relievers are failed starters. If the second half of this season is any indication, he could develop into a strong reliever.