Preston Morrison: 22 years old – 6’2” 185 pounds – Right Handed Pitcher
The Cubs took a gamble in the eighth round of the 2015 MLB draft when they selected pitcher Preston Morrison from Texas Christian University. Morrison had a vaunted four your college career pitching at the highest levels of the NCAA. The reason why dropped to the eighth round was that Morrison was not known for his velocity. In fact, it was his lack of velocity on his sinking fastball that allowed him to dominate for four years at TCU. When it came to the draft, the lack of velocity hurt his draft stock. Nevertheless,. Wilson Karaman of minorleaguebaseball.com saw something in Morrison and said this last spring:
Mechanically he comes from a low-three quarter slot with a rather upright posture. It’s not a prototypical starter’s release, though he’s much more north-south in his weight transfer and release than video suggests he used to be. He doesn’t open his hips as early or plant as far to the first base side anymore, and at least on this day it appeared to help him generate firmer command by cutting down on some of his length. It still takes a serious squint to envision a potential starting pitcher down the line, which is why he’s still pitching in college after a spectacular statistical career. But the three pitch mix and surprising pitchability provides at least an impetus to take that look over the course of this spring, and at the very least he offers a highly intriguing middle relief profile down the line.
Morrison began to transform himself slowly last season. Morrison began hitting the weight room and his fastball went from 84 to 86 miles an hour, to 87, 88, and sometimes he touched 89 late in the season.
Once he signed with the Cubs, Morrison was assigned to short season Eugene. Because he already pitched an entire NCAA season, his appearances were limited to 2-3 innings. For the season as a Cub, Morrison pitched in only nine games and made four starts with a total of 22.1 innings. But in those 22.1 innings, he struck out 30, opponents only hit .183 against him, and his ERA was a minuscule 0.81. In other words: he dominated!
Here’s an early scouting report of him during his freshman year at TCU:
“I shouldn’t say he continues to amaze me, but you see even deep into games how bad the swings are, how uncomfortable the at-bats are when he pitches. That’s special pitching.”
By the time he was a senior, things had not changed much in terms of velocity and opponents were still missing when swinging. Wilson Karaman states:
Typically last season, Morrison flashed a low-to-mid 80s fastball that devastated hitters because of its ability to sink low in the zone. This year, and after a summer of hard work and training in the weight room, Morrison has seen his fastball velocity skyrocket from that low-to-mid 80s to more 87-88, and even touching 89 on a couple occasions.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think the Cubs got a steal in Morrison. In 2016, In fact, I would not be surprised to see him skip South Bend and go straight to Myrtle Beach after Spring Training. With his ability to command and control his arsenal, I think the only thing he needs to work on is to continue to get stronger and to get that that fastball touching 90-91 miles an hour on a consistent basis.
When you watch Morrison pitch, it’s a little strange because everything looks like a normal upright pitcher who comes over the top. But then, in the final seconds of his delivery, he drops down and throws it from 9 o’clock position rather than an 11 or 12. It is a very deceptive delivery that causes just as much confusion as his sinker. The fact that he can command three pitches better than most pitchers already in the Cubs organization could lead to him being fast tracked this year. It almost expect to see him in Tennessee by July.
He is not an elite prospect in terms of physical ability; he’s not gonna wow you with a 95 mile per hour fastball, but he can pitch extremely well. And I think he makes the jump this year to a top prospect. The ability to control and command his pitches while improving his velocity is going to be amazing. If he gets to 90-91 regularly, with the pitches he already has, he is going to miss a lot of bats this summer.