With Opening Day just two days away, the excitement over the Broad Street Bombers could not be higher. The roster is set, and the team is ready to go.
Hey, even the bell at Citizens Bank Park got upgraded for this season. However, one of the most interesting storylines of the spring will not be affecting the Phillies.
At least, not to start the season.
While this may not be big news for fans, it has the possibility to have big time results. Francisco Morales, ranked as the No. 11 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the Phillies’ core signing in the 2016-2017 international free agency. He signed for $720,000 and was showing a mid-90’s fastball back then.
He moved rather slowly, like most international pitchers, but he did show promise as a starter. Even so, his stuff and high effort delivery gave him some reliever risk. After a 2021 season in which he posted a 6.6 BB/9 over 83 innings, the move was finally made.
Morales finding success in the bullpen this season could be huge for the Phils. While he’s been starting for a while, he never developed a third pitch. He threw a changeup, but it was behind the other pitches. However, his slider is arguably one of the best sliders in the minor leagues.
A closer role allows him to focus on his two plus pitches, while being able to still pitch with maximum effort. Reading Fightin’ Phils manager Shawn Williams has a lot of confidence in the righthander.
“I think it’s going to play even better,” Williams said. “Maybe he’s more of a two-pitch pitcher, where he’s fastball-slider. He’s got such a good slider. He can utilize that for one inning, let it eat with his fastball and really have some success doing it.
The fact that Morales is the one who suggested it is also incredibly telling. His desire to pitch in the backend of the bullpen is a sign of maturity. Moving from the rotation to the bullpen is hard for most pitchers. Embracing the change is the only way the pitcher can smell success, and Morales has done just that.
Like I said, he is not going to be an immediate piece for the Phillies to use. However, finding success and confidence in his new role could make Morales a quick mover. Many in the organization think he is on a similar career trajectory as another international signee, Seranthony Dominguez.
I don’t think coming up for the stretch run in August and September isn’t out of the question. What team wouldn’t want to add a power arm to the bullpen that time of year?
Morales is absolutely a guy to keep an eye on this upcoming season. We all know what an adventure our bullpen has been the last couple of season.