Francisco Morales is the Phuture Phillies’ Readers’ #15 Pick.
Francisco Javier Morales was born in San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela. The Phillies signed Morales as an international free agent In July of 2016.
Morales wasn’t placed on a roster and spent the rest of the 2016 season at one of the Phillies’ academies (they still had one in Venezuela). He came stateside for 2016 Instructs.
Morales stood 6’4, 185 lbs when he signed. Even as a 16-year-old, he had the physical build of an athlete, an unusual situation for a Phillies prospect from Latin America.
Morales debuted at Instructs and threw 92-94 mph. He turned 17 two weeks later.
Morales returned stateside for spring and extended spring training. He made his professional debut in the GCL.
2017: Morales posted a 3-2 record with a 3.05 ERA in 41.1 innings (10 appearances, 9 starts). He walked 20 (4.4 BB9, 11.1%) and struck out 44 (9.6 K/9, 24.4%)of the 180 batters he faced.
2018: As an 18-year-old, Morales went to Low-A Williamsport and posted a 4-5 record with a 5.27 ERA in 56.1 innings (13 starts). He walked 33 (5.3 BB9, 12.8%) and struck out 68 (10.9 K/9, 26.4%) of the 258 batters he faced.
2019: Nineteen-year-old Morales was assigned to full-season, Class A Lakewood. He posted a 1-8 record with a 3.82 ERA in 96.2 innings (27 appearances, 15 starts). He walked 46 (4.3 BB9, 11.0%) and struck out 129 (12.0 K/9, 30.9%) of the 417 batters he faced.
2021: Morales struggled with control after the missed year and his peripheral stats suffered. The 21-year-old was assigned to Double-A Reading and labored. A better showing might have earned him a look at the major league level. As it was, he did make two late-season starts in Triple-A (8.2 innings). His combined stat line was a 4-14 record, 6.28 ERA, 24 appearances, 22 starts, 91.2 innings, 432 batters faced, 67 walks (6.6 BB9, 15.5%), and 117 strikeouts (11.5 K/9, 27.1%).
Prospects Live prepared a pre-season scouting report on Morales.
Physical Description: Tall, lean, long levers, with remaining projection throughout the frame. Broad-shouldered, he looks bigger than the listed weight but with a very strong frame.
Delivery & Mechanics: Semi-windup; drop and drive delivery; 3/4 arm slot; long arm action; moderate leg lift timing mechanism that closes off his frontside; does not repeat consistently; easy operation; glute dominant operation.
Fastball: 93-95 mph; touch 96-97 mph at peak; cuts the pitch, higher raw spin with inefficient shape, lacks true backspin. Despite mid-90s velocity, the pitch doesn’t miss many bats and tends to get squared up too frequently. Commands the upper quadrants better than the lower. His ability to land the pitch low and inside will be a differentiator, unfortunately, he has yet to master the art of pitching inside. Grade: 50
Slider: 82-85 mph; late break and depth; slurvy break with 11-7 shape. Shows the ability to manipulate the pitch for wipeout shape. Plus swing and miss offering that controls hard contact. Will double and triple up in the pitch when he’s locked in. Average control and command of the pitch. Grade: 60
Changeup: Straight changeup, 86-87 mph with late run on the offerings he gets around. Mostly used early in counts as a change of pace. Developed better feel as 2019 went on. Below average at present, but shows glimpses of a third pitch. Grade: 40
Control and Command: Fringe average control, that comes and goes. Some innings Morales will lock in and live around the zone, others he’ll lose complete feel altogether. Fastball and slider command come and go. Some days he’ll struggle to locate glove-side and others arm-side. No consistency to his command problems. Lots of movement on the slider leads to difficulty locating with repetitive success. Control: 45 | Command: 40
Overall: An explosive but enigmatic arm talent with plus stuff but a below-average command+control profile. The development of his command will be the most important step for Morales in 2021. If he shows the ability to consistently throw strikes with his fastball+slider combination there’s a very real shot Morales could develop into a number four or five starter. If he’s able to improve his command and develop his changeup there’s mid-rotation upside. A wide range of outcomes from mid-rotation arm to average high leverage reliever. Ultimately his plus velocity and plus secondary give him a comfortable floor between number five starter and high leverage relief.
Role: 50 – Average High Leverage Reliever
This tends to support my reports that Morales can be lights out for 1-2-3 innings then completely lose control. If left in, he can mysteriously regain control in the following innings.