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Taylor Featherston and Elliot Morris: Top Prospect Performances of 2014

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Taking a look at the 2014 campaigns of new import Taylor Featherston and mid-season export Elliot Morris.

Our new lefty masher?
Our new lefty masher?
Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

9. Taylor Featherston, 24, AA. 3.5 WAR, .260/.322/.439 with 16 HR's and 14 SB's.

The Halos' new Rule 5 theft ranks as high as 8th (Baseball Prospectus), and as low as 15th (John Sickels, minorleagueball) in the system according to the national rankings. Personally, I have him at 19th, but I don't know much about him and am probably a bit biased in favor of the homegrown guys. Let's do a quick review.

Most of the reports tout his thump -- it's well above average for a middle infielder -- and compliment the line-drive swing. His approach against lefties draws universal praise, and that's clear in the numbers: he hit .297/.375/.545 against southpaws, and .244 /.298/.395 against righties. He walks and homers at about twice the rate when facing those opposite handers, becoming essentially the minor league equivalent of Miguel Cabrera, but is just Chris Johnson (or Dustin Ackley, according to your tastes) against same-handed guys.

That's a nifty skill set for a guy with the defensive versatility to hold down shortstop and presumably all of the other infield positions. He gets kudos for his steady hands and dependable play, but most sources suggests that he lacks the range to be a full time shortstop. Sickels speculates that he might eventually serve as a back-up outfielder as well.

The catch is that the Halos must see Featherston make the roster out of spring training, or face having to return him to Colorado, whence he came. On the right roster -- perhaps the Angels' 2016 roster,for example, if Yarbrough and Kubitza are both considered semi-regulars -- Featherston could be platoon gold; but without Triple A experience, it's asking a lot of him to separate himself from the pack of other marginal righty bats currently vying for the current fifth infielder job. Further complicating his outlook for 2015 playing time is the fact that the guys he'd be asked to back-up (Aybar, presumably Rutledge or Green) generally do a decent job against lefties, mitigating Featherston's biggest contribution.

He fanned nearly a quarter of time against right handers -- and remember, those are just Double A right handers -- last year, which doesn't exactly scream MLB-ready. That said, it's not like he's going to take AB's away from Howie Kendrick or a surefire, ready-to-go homegrown guy, so why not take a chance on this?

Maybe the Halos are on to something.


Elliot Morris, 22, A+ (Anaheim and then San Diego). 3.3 RA-9 R, 2.4 FIP-based WAR. 3.38 ERA, 21% k-rate, 9% BB-rate.

The Halos drafted Morris in the fourth round of the 2013 draft due to his power fastball/slider arsenal. The power, in addition to the fact that he was still coming back from Tommy John, lent him sleeper status headed into 2014. He mostly made good on it, pitching his way into legit trade-chip status before the Halos shipped him to San Diego in the Huston Street deal. His change-up and command -- longstanding question marks -- reportedly improved after he transferred into the Padre’s system, possibly due to easing off on throttle from mid-90’s to low-90’s velocity (BA’s observation). I always find those trade-offs interesting, because there seem to be an unending stream of studs who coast through minor league systems on the back of a rep for mid 90’s velocity only to show instead 90-93 mph in the majors. At any rate, his batted ball profile is pretty generic -- average numbers of grounders and flyballs, average numbers of pulled balls versus opposite field -- so I’m a little suspicious of the well below-average .256 BABIP allowed (.262 v right, .248 v left). He gave up a slightly above-average rate of home runs last season (compared to ~30 other prospects and major leaguers I compiled batted ball data for), so my guess is that the stuff will play more to k’s than weak contact in the upper minors. He strikes out a few more righties than average, and walks a few more lefties than average, which often points to a future in the pen, but the ingredients are there for him to be more than that.