|Francisco Morales, image- Jay Floyd|
Signed by the Phils in 2016 at age 16, for a reported $900,000, the Venezuela native participated that year in the Florida Instructional League.
He would make his regular season minor league debut the following year with the Rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies, posting a 3-2 record with a 3.05 ERA, a .225 batting average against and a 9.6 K/9 mark in 10 games (nine starts).
In 2018 the six-foot-four 185-pounder stepped up to the Class A short-season New York-Penn League. There, in 13 starts for Williamsport, Morales collected a 4-5 record with a 5.27 ERA, a .244 batting average against as well as a 10.9 K/9 mark.
Morales wrapped up his regular season in 2018 with five solid outings, sporting a 2.91 ERA over that stretch. He also recorded a career-high 11 strike outs in a six-inning effort that earned him a win on August 21, at home against State College.
Last year, the talented pitcher notched a 1-8 record with a saves, a 3.82, a .226 batting average against and a 12.0 K/9 mark in 27 appearances with the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws.
The 20-year-old features a repertoire that includes a fastball that clocks around 95-96 MPH, a terrific slider that dives down and away from righty batters and a vastly improved change up. Morales uses that menu to get a lot of swings-and-misses from the opposition.
The change up was an offering that wasn't a claim to fame for Morales early last season, but as he used it more and more (coaches would assign an amount of change ups Morales needed to use in any given outing), batters on the opposing team began to wonder aloud to his BlueClaws teammates, "When did he start throwing that?"
Walks had been a concern for Morales heading into his 2019 campaign, but he took considerable strides in that regard as part of the Lakewood roster. He averaged roughly 5.9 walks per nine innings prior to 2019 and saw that average reside around 4.3 last year.
Coaches loved the maturity he showed on the mound last year. Lakewood pitching coach Matt Hockenberry asserted to me toward the end of the season that Morales possesses remarkable mound presence and showed plenty of mental toughness.
The starting role is very likely where Morales will stay, as he has tremendous upside. The sky is the limit for this exceptional talent. Expect to see him open the 2020 season with Class A Advanced Clearwater.
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