Michael Morales didn’t always perform up to his expectations on the showcase circuit last summer. He used the adversity he faced as a learning experience, though.
The right-handed prep pitcher started the showcase circuit by struggling in the Perfect Game National Showcase in June. It was his first time back on the mound in a game since he had a PRP injection in his knee towards the end of 2019.
Following the Perfect Game event, Morales pitched in a local men’s league in Pennsylvania. The league consisted of mostly college seniors to 30-year-olds. Morales returned to the showcase circuit in August, competing in the East Coast Pro Showcase, Area Code Games, and Under Armour All-America Game.
He thrived in all three of those events, which allowed him to gain confidence and boost his status in the 2021 prep class.
“That Perfect Game outing was rough,” Morales said. “On the rankings end, that’s when I started to drop. It seemed like at the beginning of summer that people around the country started to give up on me a little bit.
“That outing in the long run, though, was extremely, extremely beneficial for me because it was my first time facing tough adversity and failure. It forced me to change my mindset and forced me to be better on the mental end.”
Morales impressed professional scouts in his final three showcase appearances. He displayed clean mechanics and a strong feel for his repertoire of pitches. Morales’ finish allowed him to enhance his status as a prospect for the 2021 MLB draft. Scouts project the Pennsylvania prep pitcher as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
“I really feel like it has been a goal of mine to pitch in the big leagues,” Morales said. “This stuff to me is stuff I’ve worked for. At points, it’s stressful, especially when scouts are calling and texting a lot. Really, I just try to be myself because that’s who they’re going to draft is the real me. I just want to stay as true to myself as possible, and hopefully, they fall in love with the real Michael Morales.”
Morales is a 6-foot-2, 205-pound righty who is strong and athletic. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and features a repeatable and smooth delivery.
His repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball, spike curveball and a circle changeup. His fastball sits 92-93 mph and has been clocked at 96 mph by at least a few major league teams. Morales’ curveball is a potential above-average offering that sits 78-82 mph. His low-to-mid-80s changeup is a respectable offering.
Morales consistently locates all three of his pitches and takes pride in challenging hitters in the strike zone.
“The biggest strength for me right now is the amount of strikes I throw,” Morales said. “I don’t walk too many people. I like to fill up the strike zone, and I love to pitch with my fastball.”
This offseason, Morales is refining his secondary pitches in hopes of improving his control and command throughout his senior season at East Pennsboro High School in Pennsylvania.
“I am just trying to clean up some movement patterns and inefficiencies to make my body move more efficiently so I can have better velocity and just better feel for my secondary pitches,” Morales said.
Besides being a top draft prospect, Morales also is a Vanderbilt University commit. He committed to Vanderbilt his freshman year in April 2018. Vanderbilt’s coaching staff, player development and rich history stood out to him, he said.
“I see a lot of myself in Vandy with the way they allow their program to speak for itself,” Morales said. “They were one of the few schools that didn’t force-feed the guys they have and the guys who have come out of their program. They were just very humble to me. I could tell that their interest was extremely genuine.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.