Philadelphia Phillies rookie Adam Morgan made his major league debut on Sunday and it was a good one: one run and six hits in 5.2 innings, with two walks allowed and six strikeouts. If you were taken by surprise by this, don't worry, you're not alone.
Morgan was actually a prominent prospect a few years ago. Drafted in the third round in 2011 from the University of Alabama, he was an effective performer in 2012 (3.35 ERA, 169/39 K/BB in 159 innings in A-ball) and ranked well on most Phillies prospect lists. However, he slipped in 2013 (4.04 ERA, 49/26 K/BB with 84 hits in 71 innings) after being jumped aggressively in Triple-A. Worse, he came down with serious arm problems and surgery was required to repair a torn rotator cuff.
Morgan missed all of 2014 rehabbing from the surgery and was something of a forgotten man heading into 2015. Sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, he made 13 starts this spring, going 0-6, 4.74, giving up 81 hits in 68 innings with a 33/27 K/BB. Yes, those are bad numbers, and he was still a forgotten prospect say, oh, a week ago.
The Phillies needed someone to start Sunday against the Cardinals, Morgan was available and he pitched very well, the best game he's had in more than two years.
There was no sabermetric reason to predict anything of the sort: he's a fly ball pitcher with bad component ratios and a poor record since hurting his arm. There were no traditionalist reasons to expect this: he doesn't have blazing stuff by any means; his fastest fastball Sunday was 91.7 MPH and he averaged 89.9. He's got a slider and change-up and he mixes them well, but neither pitch looked as good post-surgery as they were pre-surgery, an issue reflected in the low strikeout rate this spring.
But this is baseball and the game makes fools of us all.
There was nothing wrong with Morgan Sunday; his location was sharp and all three pitches were effective. Indeed, this was the Adam Morgan who existed pre-injury, the Adam Morgan who was drafted in the third round four years ago. This was the Adam Morgan who drove hitters nuts with his three-pitch mix and sharp command, before his shoulder started hurting.
But the shoulder doesn't hurt now.
Of course, this was just one game and the adrenalin was flowing. The rough numbers in his 13 other starts this spring are still on the record, scouting reports will get around, and we'll have to see how he manages his workload through the summer. Be wary of a big fantasy investment right now, but Morgan has earned an opportunity to show us what he can do, and it is always great to see a player overcome adversity.