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Eli Morgan’s path to the major leagues

Less than four years after being drafted, Morgan makes his MLB debut tonight against Toronto

Mathew Carper

Cleveland pitching prospect Eli Morgan is slated to make his MLB debut today as he’ll start tonight’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

So who is he, and how did he get here?

Morgan was an eighth-round draft pick out of Gonzaga in 2017. While at Gonzaga, he improved his strikeout rate every year, finishing his 2017 season with 138 whiffs in 100.2 innings pitched and sporting a 2.86 ERA.

The right-hander had impressive statistics as a D1 pitcher, but his height (5-foot-10) likely played a part in his draft position. Cleveland hasn’t seemed bothered by shorter pitchers, even making 6-foot-2 Daniel Espino their No. 1 pick in 2019.

Morgan immediately was placed in short-season Low-A Mahoning Valley in 2017 after being drafted. While a small sample size, his numbers were elite, striking out 58 batters over 35.0 innings in 13 games, with a 1.03 ERA.

In 2018, he began the year at (then) full-season Single-A Lake County, and he again was dominant, whiffing 56 more batters in 44.1 innings with a 1.83 ERA and 2.41 FIP. He was a Midwest League Pitcher of the Week before earning a promotion to (then) High-A Lynchburg, where he was good, not great, striking out 100 batters in 99.0 innings the rest of the season with a 3.91 ERA, although he was named Carolina League Pitcher of the Week twice.

Morgan repeated 2019 at High-A, but he didn’t stay there long after again dominating. In six starts at High-A, he struck out 40 batters over 33.2 innings, sporting a ridiculous 0.71 WHIP with a 1.87 ERA while earning Carolina League Pitcher of the Week one last time before earning a promotion to Double-A Akron.

While at Akron, he struck out 104 batters over 102.0 innings and was named an Eastern League All-Star. He also earned a cup of coffee at Triple-A Columbus with one start in 2019.

Morgan was a participant in the 60-man expanded roster in Lake County when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 minor-league season. He was added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster this past November to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, which Cleveland is probably thankful for after injuries and inconsistencies have caused issues with the MLB rotation.

This season, Morgan’s start was delayed a week due to a minor forearm issue. He was a bit rusty in his first start but improved each time out, most recently tossing six shutout innings in Triple-A Columbus on two hits with two walks and six strikeouts exactly one week ago on May 21.

The 25-year-old has struck out more hitters than any Cleveland minor league pitcher since 2018, which doesn’t just prove his ability to miss bats, but also shows he’s been able to stay healthy. He’s never been placed on an injured list. Knock on wood.

Assuming weather doesn’t get in the way, he’ll start his major-league journey tonight.