You might think that there might not be a lot of scouting information available on Eli Morgan, considering he’s not currently in MLB Pipeline’s top 30 prospects in the Cleveland system, but you’d be wrong.
There’s actually a surprising amount of info available on the 25-year-old right-hander, who has led all Cleveland minor league pitchers in strikeouts since he was drafted in 2017, and is slated to make his debut tonight.
Here’s what Baseball America had to say about him when he was ranked the No. 29 prospect in the Cleveland system back in 2018.
“Despite capping his college career with a strong junior season in which he ranked in the top 10 nationally in strikeouts (138) and strikeouts per nine innings (12.34), Morgan lasted until the eighth round in the draft due to his stature and below-average fastball velocity. But his outstanding professional debut in the New York-Penn League showed there may be more than meets the eye. Morgan threw a bit harder in pro ball, running his fastball up to 93 mph. His fastball is just good enough to allow his changeup, which was one of the best secondary pitches in the draft class, to be effective. His changeup has fading action, and he locates and sells the pitch well. He also throws a slurvy slider, which he will need to tighten up to give him a better third pitch. Morgan has a nontraditional profile as a short righthander whose primary offspeed pitch is his changeup. He has a starter’s mentality and the Indians will develop him as one, believing he could move quickly in the minor leagues.”
It should come as no surprise that scouts love his changeup. You’ll see a common theme of concerns about his size and velocity, while praising his pitchability, control, change-up, etc.
Eric Longenhagen - FanGraphs (2021)
Aided by some deception, [Morgan’s] fastball is a viable big league offering. The impact pitch is Morgan’s changeup, which has disorienting angle and fade. I think he’ll live off of his strike-throwing (he has good breaking ball utility even though it’s not a nasty pitch) and changeup enough to be a fifth starter
Phil Goyette - Baseball Farm (2018)
I really like guys that get the absolute best out of the stuff they have and no prospect encapsulates that quite like Eli Morgan. Listed at 5’10″ 190 lbs, Morgan has a small frame with minimal to no body projection left. He will get stronger but he is what he is. Undersized.
Morgan will mess with hitters timing. His first inning was stellar. He struck out the side – all 3 swinging – while mixing in a slide step/quick pitch that gave hitters problems. Once guys were on his base, he abandoned the quick pitch
Andy Patton - Pitcher’s List (2019)
[Morgan] was named the Indians minor league pitcher of the year for his work in 2018, but he didn’t appear on any top-1oo lists thanks to concerns about his size (5-feet-10-inches, 190 pounds) and velocity, which barely hovers over 90 mph and often sits in the mid-80s.
Morgan doesn’t rely on his average fastball to get strikeouts, but rather his 60-grade changeup that has been called one of the best in the minor leagues. His breaking pitches both flash plus as well, although he’ll need one of them to be more consistent if he wants to stick as a starter. How that all translates into the major leagues, obviously, remains to be seen. Morgan’s size and velocity are still valid concerns, and have caused many to label him a future bullpen piece or long reliever.
However, Cleveland has always found a way to get the most out of these kinds of arms, and Morgan’s high-strikeout, low-walk totals in the minors are reminiscent of Bieber.
Indians Baseball Insider (2020)
In his minors career, Morgan has a 3.13 FIP with a 27.7% strikeout rate and a 6.4% walk rate, all above average marks. As you would imagine, Morgan’s north-south profile and excellent changeup have generated flyballs at a well above-average clip of 44.5%, and his 7.7% homerun/flyball rate is impressive. Without having any data to answer this question, I wonder if Morgan has some innate skill at generating weak contact—think Kyle Hendricks or Dallas Keuchel—that will allow him to mitigate the damage of balls in the air.
[Morgan’s] skillset should play fine as a backend starter. I really like his deep pitch mix, plus-plus changeup, clean mechanics, and track record of performance.
Not every review was glowing. Here’s ProspectsLive for some balance - (2018)
Morgan is a bit crafty as he will mess with hitters by varying the timing and just giving them different looks. Morgan has plus command, but its a profile that looks like a reliever to me. He’s also an extreme fly-ball guy and that might be due to the lack of a fastball plane due to him being only 5-foot-10.
How would you grade Eli Morgan as a prospect?
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