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Michael Morales Wows Mariners

If so many other clubs were spooked from spending a top draft pick on a Pennsylvania high school pitcher with slipping velocity, why weren’t the Mariners?

Maybe because, as hesitant as Mariners scouting director Scott Hunter was to share this publicly, righthander and former Vanderbilt commit Michael Morales bears a striking resemblance to a past Commodores recruit.

“I don’t want to put this much pressure on him,” Hunter began, “but there are some comparisons from our guys that this is what Walker Buehler looked like in high school—an 88-92 (mph) guy with a ton of strikes, can really spin a breaking ball.

"And if you dream on the athleticism and projection, we believe the velocity will either come back or come even better as he gets into our high-performance program.”

Hunter wasn’t wrong to point out their prospect development program, with Logan Gilbert making his big league debut this year and tantalizing arms George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Brandon Williamson, Matt Brash and Levi Stoudt seemingly well on their way.

That depth of arms was also in part why the Mariners felt they could be more aggressive in seeking Morales to lead the next wave. Seattle drafted him from East Pennsboro High in Enola, Pa., in the third round.

What stood out equally about the 6-foot-2, 205-pound righthander was his mature understanding of pitching.

Hunter said the 19-year-old serenaded the Mariners staff with his in-depth analysis of pitch shapes, pitch design, spin rates and overload as if he worked for the Seattle-based Driveline Baseball facility.

What about the declining velocity? Morales topped out at 95 mph and sat 92-93 last summer, but this year he dipped to 88-90. The Mariners believe it had to do with Covid outbreaks and the Pennsylvania cold, but Morales didn’t seem too anxious about it.

“One thing with me is we never really chased the velocity,” Morales said. “We always kind of chase more of understanding the body.

“(The Mariners) like the plan I have in place. They like that I’m a student of the game. They like that I’m pretty well-versed to what goes on on the throwing end.”


— Righthander Matt Brash has pitched even better at Double-A Arkansas than he did with High-A Everett. After he was promoted in late July, the righthander held a 1.89 ERA over 38 innings in his first seven starts with Arkansas, striking out 58 batters to 15 walks. He earned Double-A Central pitcher of the week honors for Aug. 16-22, during which he tossed a complete game one-hit shutout at Frisco, retiring 18 consecutive batters at one point. The Padres traded him to the Mariners in September 2020 for righthander Taylor Williams.

— There was similar success for two other promotions to Arkansas—righthanders George Kirby and Emerson Hancock. Kirby, promoted from Everett Aug. 11, allowed one run over 8.1 innings in his first two Double-A starts. Hancock, promoted Aug. 9, didn’t allow a hit over 4.2 innings in his Double-A debut.

— Outfielder Corey Rosier, a 12th-round pick out of UNC Greensboro in 2021, joined Low-A Modesto and started raking at the plate, hitting .387/.475/.597 over his first 18 games. He earned Low-A West player of the week honors for Aug. 16-22, when he hit .556 (10-for-18).


2021 Pennsylvania Top MLB Draft Prospects

Ranking the top high school and college MLB Draft prospects from Pennsylvania in the class of 2021.

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