Mike Morin: Top Angels Prospect Performances of 2013

USA TODAY Sports

Keep in mind that this is not a traditional top prospect list because it focuses entirely on 2013 contributions. I rank guys according to advanced metrics which, for position players, include batting runs above average, positional adjustment, defense, and a replacement level calculation that scales the total to "Wins Above Replacement" (though the concept of replacement level doesn't really apply to minor leaguers). I use a standard "runs allowed based" WAR formula for pitchers.

(14)  Mike Morin, 22, rhrp.  A+/AA.  3.0 WAR, +22 runs saved. 70 IP, 1.93 ERA, 76 K/10 BB

There's no such thing as certainty when you're putting together a major league bullpen. Building from scratch takes gobs of arms and requires gobs more attrition.  It also requires making adjustments on the fly, and accepting the possibility that things may never quite gel.  And, as I'm sure the Angels' FO will tell you, throwing money at the problem doesn't guarantee a winner either.  Relief prospects are tough to project, since season-to-season performance is based on small sample sizes and inconsistent competition.  There are a lot of relievers who appear dominant in the minors, only to find that their bag of tricks fails to fool big leaguers.  Conversely, a lot of the best relievers seem to emerge from nowhere out of the minors, finally putting it all together behind a smokescreen of mediocre numbers.  If building a quality relief corps was easy, everyone would do it.

All of that said, Morin looks like as sure a bet to contribute as you get. He has average-ish 89-92 mph fastball that plays up due to command and the imminence of his change-up.  The man can really pull the string, dropping his change-up down to the low 70's at will. Baseball America credits him with near super-natural powers over the pitch, including the ability to cut or run it depending on the handedness of the batter. In addition to horizontal movement, the pitch shows consistent late fade, at times resembling a splitter. Typically hitters --lefties and righties alike -- swing early and over of the pitch.  He also has a short slider/breaking ball in the upper 70's, giving hitters a third offering to think about.

Morin's delivery further boosts his case for possessing one of the better change-ups in the minors. He uses mostly conventional "reliever" mechanics, always starting from the stretch, with a drop and drive motion that ends with some rotation off the mound in his follow-through. His arm slot is pretty standard at three quarters. Pretty mainstream stuff. The potentially deceptive feature is a long-ish arm stroke that leaves his pitching arm "dragging" more than usual behind his body as he drives to the plate. Usually this is a cause for concern because it can screw up a pitcher's release point - you hear a lot about guys "opening up too early," meaning the rotation of their body outpaces their arm, to the detriment of control -  but Morin's command is just fine; instead, dragging the arm purposefully appears to both hide the ball and his arm stroke/arm speed from the hitter, eliminating the possibility that they identify the pitch early.

Surprisingly for a guy with his pitch mix, Morin has the most work to do polishing his game against lefties. While they fanned 23% of the time against him, they did hit a healthy. 398 on contact due to a 24% linedrive rate. I suspect that this is an issue Morin will resolve by figuring out how to better sequence/mix his pitches, potentially by throwing fewer fastballs to lefties at the highest levels, but it is something to watch for in 2014.

Morin will likely see big league time in 2014, and is a virtual lock to receive a long look in spring training.

Just checked, and the first Halos' game isn't until February 28th.  Damn. That still feels like a long, long time from now.

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