Kade Morris dominated opposing hitters in three starts in the Cape Cod League last summer. It was an encouraging stretch for the right-handed pitcher, who experienced mixed results primarily as a reliever in his first two years at Nevada.
His success as a starting pitcher last summer has given him confidence entering this spring as the ace of the Nevada pitching staff. Morris, a junior, hopes to take another step forward in his development and prove he can excel as a full-time starter at the college level.
Besides his own expectations, Morris is receiving attention for July’s MLB draft. Scouts project Morris as a likely early-round pick due to his quality five-pitch mix and potential.
“(The draft) is something that was on my radar junior year of high school,” Morris said. “I had in-home visits. I knew I had the potential. So, it was never a shock to me. Now it’s about how I can be the most polished pitcher once I get there. It’s about helping my team win and becoming the most polished pitcher.”
Morris is a 6-foot-3, 190-pound right-hander who throws a four-seam fastball, sinker, slider, changeup and curveball from a three-quarters arm slot and low-effort delivery.
He is a projectable pitcher who relies on his four-seam fastball, which sits 94-96 mph. He added 15 pounds to his frame in the offseason and believes it will lead to increased velocity and an ability to maintain it later into starts.
Morris does an excellent job of mixing his pitches and attacking batters in all quadrants of the strike zone. His slider is a quality offering with notable movement and is his put-away pitch.
“When I am on the mound, I feel like no one in the world can touch me,” Morris said. “Just establishing that and holding that throughout the game and always believing that is a strength of mine.”
In his first two years, Morris posted a 5.46 ERA with 68 strikeouts and 35 walks allowed in 92 1/3 innings. He mostly pitched out of the bullpen and recorded 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Morris is focused on increasing his strikeout total this season. He believes he made strides with his secondary pitches in the offseason. Morris feels he can generate more swings and misses if he can show a better feel for his changeup and curveball while continuing to attack the strike zone.
“I wasn’t a big strikeout guy last year,” Morris said. “That has always been my downfall, and something guys talk about. But I’m here to show them I can be that guy who goes long into games. I’m excited to show people how much I have developed my game in a short time.”
Morris will play an important role for Nevada this season. The Wolf Pack hope to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in program history under first-year head coach Jake McKinley, who spent the last four years with the Milwaukee Brewers.
McKinley has brought a professional approach to the program, Morris said. The new coaching staff has also helped Morris improve his game.
While outside expectations aren’t high for the Wolf Pack, as the Mountain West coaches picked them to finish sixth in the seven-team conference, they believe they have the coaching, talent and motivation to perform well.
“They predicted us (second) last in the conference,” Morris said. “Every guy in the locker room knows what we were predicted. We are here to prove everyone in the world wrong.”
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Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.