Scouting Report: Taylor Morton

Morton is much better than his 2012 numbers

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher Taylor Morton in the 9th round of the 2010 MLB Draft out of Bartlett High School in Tennessee. He had a brilliant debut season with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2011 but bouts of shoulder tendonitis this year caused a nightmarish sophomore campaign with Staten Island. He still, however, has strong long-term potential.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Taylor Morton
Position: Pitcher
DOB: December 18, 1991
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 195
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He followed up his great debut season that saw him post a 1.98 ERA with the Gulf Coast League Yankees a year ago with a fantastic performance in Spring Training this year. Left back in Extended Spring Training, however, it was there that his game began to suffer.

Battling some shoulder tendonitis from that point forward, Morton began to overcompensate in Staten Island and finished his year going 0-3 with a 9.13 ERA in six games and a mind-boggling 20 walks and 23 2/3 innings.

"For me it was a little rough because I was up and down the whole time with my shoulder," he said. "I felt like I learned a lot about my arm, a lot about arm care. Performance-wise, however, overall it was pretty terrible but I can learn from it and take it into next season.

"I was extremely disappointed. Everybody wants to be out there pitching and getting better, but after the year when I was home I was doing some thinking and I'm trying to make the best of it.

"That type of stuff happens. I've never been hurt before in my career so it was really frustrating."

He had MRI's on the shoulder and nothing noteworthy came up. He basically had nagging pain and soreness, and more dead arm than anything else. The end result though was a fastball velocity that fluctuated anywhere from 84-92 mph, most of the time the former speed range.

"The velo was everywhere, it was definitely frustrating," he said. "I tried not to worry about the velo so much but after it being down so long it was frustrating. It was everywhere."

Seeing his once low-90s fastball dip all the way down to the mid-80s range had another effect on his game. He tried so hard to get the velocity back that he overcompensated effort-wise and that left his normal stellar command quite spotty, and that caused him to uncharacteristically walk a lot more batters.

"That was part of me trying to get my velocity back and overthrowing it," he admitted. "Everything goes downhill from there when you're trying to overthrow -- the pitches are going to be up. Overthrowing is not what you want to do or else everything is going to go wrong."

Everything was going wrong with his fastball. He couldn't throw hard and he was unable to throw strikes too. Everything wasn't a negative in his game, however. Behind the brutal numbers and obvious frustration with his heater was some progress made in what was once his lone weakness.

"I did get to work a lot on my slider," he said. "It needed it immensely because that's just not my pitch. In previous years that was my problem, I needed to work on my slider.

"I did get to work a lot on my slider this year throughout Extended [Spring Training] and even in Staten Island, and even in Instructs.

"I got to work on my slider the entire year and towards the end of the year it definitely showed improvement so that's the best thing that came out of [my season] pitching-wise."

He still can't command the slider like he wants but the good news is he is able to throw it for strikes more consistently and that should be a good development for when his fastball velocity creeps back up.

"It was more consistent with the command," he added. "I could throw it in the strike zone more often.

"I'm not saying I could command it because I still can't command it where I want to every time, but it would break in for a strike more times than not."

For most baseball observers, his 2012 campaign was not remotely indicative of his true talent. Morton says he's looking forward to hitting the reset button next season, come back stronger, and be more like the dominant pitcher he was a year ago and in Spring Training this year.

"That's the biggest thing I learned this year, preparing my shoulder and the upkeep of my shoulder, maintaining my strength and keeping up with the shoulder exercises. They're important, you have to do them.

"I have no doubt in my mind that this was just a learning experience and I'm all in for this next year. I have no doubt that I can bounce back. My confidence hasn't been damaged in the slightest bit.

"I can be as good as I want myself to be. I just have to work hard, listen, get healthy, and be committed to being better. I'm ready to get back and get this started," he concluded.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2012

Staten Island

0-3

0

23.2

28

20

9

9.13

2011

Staten Island

0-1

0

5.0

6

2

3

5.40

2011

GCL Yankees

3-2

0

50.0

49

8

35

1.98



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Throw out Morton's 2012 season -- he's not a mid-80s fastball guy. Just a year ago he was averaging 91-92 mph with his fastball, a pitch that had shown long-term plus potential given its movement and the fact that his projectable body could allow him to throw even harder down the road. His fastball command is truly stellar too when he's going right -- he's nowhere near the wild pitcher his 2012 numbers bear out. When healthy he is a great fastball pitcher movement-wise, command-wise, and showing above average velocity.

Other Pitches. Where Morton got very much hittable was with his offspeed pitches this year. With his fastball velocity dipping down to the 84 mph range a lot of the time, his plus changeup, which also sits at a similar velocity range, was rendered ineffective. When he's throwing his normal low-90s fastball, his changeup can be a truly wicked pitch. His slider also sits in the 84-86 mph range and again, that's where his fastball velocity stood in 2012. He was able to locate it more for strikes in the zone this past season and that's a good sign for a pitch that also has long-term above average to plus potential.

Pitching: His 2012 numbers don't show it but Morton is a primo strike-thrower when he's going right. He goes right after batters with a good moving fastball that has natural sink and mixes in a plus changeup that sinks and fades as well. He normally has an effortless motion too that allows him to pitch with some deception, but that aspect of his game evaded him as well in 2012. A former catcher, he is very athletic. He fields his position well and is very good at holding runners close for a right-handed pitcher.

Projection. For Morton it's all about getting healthy again. Few young pitchers can live with a mid-80s fastball like had to endure this past season and that's not him when he's going right. When healthy he has an above average fastball with long-term plus potential if he continues to get stronger, an average slider that could grade out down the road as above average, and a now plus changeup, and he can throw all three pitches for strikes. Ironically, despite his bouts of shoulder tendonitis, he has the ideal pitcher's frame that would normally suggest durability too. His ceiling is that a middle of the rotation type starting pitcher should he get healthy once again, and there's some hidden power and projectability in his arsenal that could allow him to project a tick higher if everything falls into place.

ETA. 2016. Morton appeared ready for Charleston at the end of Spring Training this year and now he has some work to do to get back into the South Atlantic League conversation for 2013. A healthy and strong shoulder in camp could put him back into the mix because he's arguably the best comeback candidate in the organization right now. He's most likely destined for a return trip to Staten Island but don't be surprised if he makes a significant leap forward.

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