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Minor league signing of Osmer Morales introduces another starter to the farm

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Morales had one of the highest strikeout rates among minor league free agent starters.

GM Billy Eppler has been active on the minor league free agency front trying to add talent to the minor league system in any way he can. Since the offseason has begun, Eppler has signed eight players and of these, Osmer Morales is the most intriguing one with a real chance to contribute to the big league team in the future.

Morales was in the Mariners’ organization his entire career but realized he didn’t like Dipoto his contract expired and decided to look elsewhere. Seattle used him as a starter on occasion, but mostly as a reliever his entire career. When given the opportunity to start, Morales has definitely made the most of it, pitching to an overall 3.69 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 102.1 innings in high-A ball this year; he appeared in 25 games, with 14 of those being starts.

As Baseball America’s Matt Eddy explains, Morales induces plenty of strikeouts (career 10.2 K/9) and stays under control (career 2.4 BB/9) without surrendering home runs (career 0.5 HR/9).

He pitches at 88 mph but generates tremendous spin on the pitch, which makes it appear faster to opposing batters, and he also generates swings and misses with a low-70s curveball and low-80s changeup. While Morales throws no pitch that would grade better than average, he hides the ball well and locates all his pitches for strikes. He is one of the most promising starting pitchers on the minor league free agent market.

After dominating in high-A last year, the 24-year old Morales will likely move up to AA and be penciled in as a starter (which is why he signed with the Angels so quickly). He will round out the rotation, along with Jordan Kipper, Alex Blackford, Tyler Carpenter, and Alex Klonowski.

Fangraphs’ KATOH+ projection system pegs Morales to be worth 1.4 WAR over his first six years; It’s not much, but every bit helps when considering that 1 WAR costs $8 million (and climbing) in free agency.

He may ultimately find his home in the Angels’ bullpen where his velocity can play up in shorter bursts. Regardless, it sounds like Eppler has found a future Angel through minor league free agency. And for a team with little to offer in terms of trades, building depth through signings like this is more than welcome.