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Next stop, stardom: 2011 breakout picks – Brandon Morrow

Mar 28, 2011, 2:38 PM EDT

brandon-morrow-blue-jays AP

With the fifth pick in the 2006 draft Seattle chose Brandon Morrow over local boy and University of Washington ace Tim Lincecum, who quickly became one of the elite pitchers in baseball while Morrow bounced back and forth between the Mariners’ rotation and bullpen before being traded to the Blue Jays for Brandon League in December of 2009.

Toronto made Morrow a full-time starter, stuck with him in the rotation despite a 6.66 ERA through 10 outings, and then watched as he put together a three-month stretch of dominance. In his final 16 starts Morrow had a 3.36 ERA, .232 opponents’ batting average, and 113 strikeouts in 96 innings.

With a 4.49 ERA overall his 2010 performance looks modest at first glance, but Morrow was the only pitcher in baseball to strike out more than 10 batters per nine innings while starting at least 25 games. And he racked up 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings, easily topping the 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings from the second-place finisher … Tim Lincecum. Of course, Morrow has always missed tons of bats and always had overpowering raw stuff, totaling 382 strikeouts in 344 career innings while averaging 94.4 miles per hour with his fastball.

What kept him from dominating prior to the middle of last year was an inability to consistently throw strikes, but Morrow made major strides with his career-long control problems by walking 3.1 batters per nine innings during that 16-start stretch after previously handing out 5.8 free passes per nine frames. He’s never going to have pinpoint command, but if Morrow can keep his walk rate around 3.0 per nine innings–and bounce back quickly from his current arm soreness–he has a chance to be a true top-of-the-rotation ace for the Blue Jays and is still just 26 years old.

My other 2011 breakout picks: Carlos Santana and Colby Rasmus.

  1. Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Mar 28, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Mine are Luke Hochevar (P, Royals) and Simon Castro (P, Padres) hopefully after being called up early.

  2. Ari Collins - Mar 28, 2011 at 3:23 PM

    I’m a BIG Morrow fan, but I’m surprised you didn’t bring up his P/IP issue. Even with improved command and control, he throws a LOT of pitches to get each out. Not only does this mean shorter outings, but COULD, some think, correlate with injury.

    Again, I’m a big Morrow fan, he’s one of my favorite pitchers, and I hope the issue does not derail his career.

    • marinersnate - Mar 28, 2011 at 8:26 PM

      I am also a huge Morrow fan, and wish the guy well in Toronto.

      I still find it hard to beleave that GM Zduriencik actually traded Morrow for a releaver like League (+ change). When I first heard the deal annouced I thought that there had to be more coming back than that. Nope. This is easily the worst trade of Zduriencik’s tenure. It’s not quite up there with the Bedard deal, or my all time favorite Lowe and Varitek for our buddy Heathcliff Slocum. But depending on how much success Morrow has with the Jays’, this might look pretty ugly in a couple years.

  3. banksatdixie - Mar 28, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Is this before or after his arm disintegrates?

  4. bobwsc - Mar 28, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    new manager John Farrell (former Sox pitching coach) is going to help

  5. nittanylion0 - Mar 28, 2011 at 5:50 PM

    Uh oh. I have Morrow, Rasmus and Santana on my fantasy team. I hope you’re right.

  6. mashoaf - Mar 28, 2011 at 9:52 PM

    You do know that the Mariners got rid of him because he was always getting hurt.

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