Adrian Morejon Showing He Was Worth Big Investment

After one inning at the 15U World Cup in Mexico in 2015, the Padres had seen everything they needed to of Cuban lefthander Adrian Morejon.

“After I watched him throw the first inning I was on the phone to (Padres general manager) A.J. (Preller),” said Chris Kemp, the Padres’ international scouting director. “I told him this was the real deal and I needed him to get everyone down here because this is going to be the top guy internationally for (the) year.

So on July 7, 2016, the Padres splurged on Morejon, giving him an $11 million bonus, the biggest in club history. Since the Padres exceeded their international bonus pool and incurred a 100 percent overage tax, it amounted to a $22 million transaction.

A year later, they have no regrets.

“He is advanced for his age,” short-season Tri-City manager Ben Fritz said. “He is confident and doesn’t let a situation rattle him. When he gets fired up, you don’t see it until after the fact. That way he doesn’t make mistakes because of his heart rate.”

“Then again,” said Fritz, a first-round pick of the Athletics in 2002, “when you have that type of stuff maybe it’s easier.”

Morejon throws a four-seam fastball with some arm-side run that he can dial up to 96 mph, but sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He has a curveball that is released from the same plane as his fastball, along with a changeup that flashes plus. He can elevate and drop all three pitches in addition to throwing to both sides of the plate.

As Fritz said, the biggest thing about him is his sense of calm on the mound, especially for an 18-year-old.

“My dad was one of my biggest influences on me becoming a baseball player,” said Morejon, with translation help from teammate Joe Galindo. “He is the one that told me that you must have a lot of confidence in yourself because you can only control, what you can control.

“So, I need to be strong up there, and look strong for my teammates.”

For Morejon, some of the biggest adjustments have been getting acclimated to American culture and the differences in training from the Cuban National Team to pro ball.

“When you come from a baseball program without a lot of structure, it is a little different as professional here,” pitching coach Josh Spence said. “I’m sure the coaching was great there but here we have an emphasis on being at the right place at the right time.

“Some people can misunderstand that, and we understand it’s a different culture, but at the same time was are trying to prepare him for a 162-game major league schedule.”

The training has been significant adjustment from Cuba.

“It’s made a huge difference,” Morejon said. “In Cuba, the physical training is not that big, so people get injured quite a bit. Here it has helped me out quite a bit. It is helping me recover faster when I had a bit of a shoulder problem in extended spring this year.”

With Tri-City, Morejon threw 35.1 innings with 35 strikeouts against only three walks. In his final outing in the Northwest League on July 23 before he was promoted to low Class A Fort Wayne, Morejon struck out a season-high eight in six shutout innings, with no walks.

“I had problems with my release point in Boise and keeping my fastball down,” Morejon said. “Last game I wasn’t able to make the adjustments, this time I did.”

Fritz wasn’t surprised.

“He is showing that he is more than able to compete here,” Fritz said after Morejon was promoted. “So let’s see what happens as he goes up. If you look at the walks-to-innings pitched, the hits or really any variety of metrics, he’s not being hit because his stuff is that good.”

— John Conniff is a contributor to FoxSportsSan Diego and you can follow him

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