PJ Morlando describes himself as a blue-collar worker dedicated to refining his craft on the baseball field. His work ethic and skill set have allowed him to thrive on the biggest stages during his high school career.
Morlando was one of the top hitters on the showcase circuit last summer. He consistently stood out at each event, but his most memorable showing came during MLB’s All-Star Week in Seattle.
Morlando hit eight home runs in one minute in front of 55,000 fans to win the High School Home Run Derby at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park. It capped a tremendous weekend that also consisted of him earning the MVP award in the 2023 MLB/USA High School All-American Game.
For capturing the MVP award, he received an all-inclusive trip to Game 2 of this year’s World Series between the Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks courtesy of MLB.
Thriving in front of a sell-out crowd in a major-league ballpark motivates Morlando to one day return to that stage. Scouts consider the South Carolina prep first baseman/outfielder as one of the top players in the prep class and a potential top-10 pick in the 2024 MLB draft.
“When I won the MVP, my face just lit up,” Morlando said. “That moment was so exciting and memorable. I was calm and relaxed during the home run derby, and I think that’s what helped. I live for those moments.
“That is really pushing me through to get to that level because that is where I want to play every day. I just don’t want it to be the home run derby, I want that to be a fan base I play in front of and succeed in every day. I want to relive that moment and help a team win a World Series.”
Morlando is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder known for his exceptional contact skills and raw power. He uses a wide stance, a quiet, compact swing, and high bat speed to square up the baseball and drive it in the gaps with ease and notable power.
Scouts project Morlando as a middle-of-the-order hitter in the pro ranks due to his excellent plate discipline, contact skills and power potential. He is a complete hitter who only continues to improve as he matures.
“My contact rates and ability to put power behind it,” said Morlando on his biggest strengths. “No matter if I get beat on the first or second pitch, with two strikes, I’m still a threat to put the ball over the fence with my two-strike approach swing. My biggest asset to my game is that no matter what happens, I’m still a big threat at the plate.”
Morlando’s offensive tools are his biggest strengths. In recent years, Morlando has focused on his speed and defensive skills to enhance his ability in the field in hopes of becoming a more complete player.
Morlando has experience playing all around the diamond. In his career, he played shortstop, third base and catcher before focusing on first base and outfield in recent years. He plays center field for his high school team. He also showed notable feel at first base during the summer.
Morlando is comfortable in the outfield. He has made strides with his explosiveness and likely can handle a corner outfield spot at the next level due to his arm strength and route-running ability.
This offseason, Morlando is working with highly-respected trainer Josh Reidt, who owns Reidt Fitness Systems in California, to develop more explosiveness and agility. Reidt has trained many professional players, including Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll and Baltimore Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman.
Reidt has developed a training program for Morlando to help him enhance his skills in preparation for his senior season. Scouts project Morlando as a corner outfielder or first baseman in pro ball.
“I have taken a step with my speed,” Morlando said. “People have been telling me that I have a lot of tools, but a tool that would be good for me is a twitch tool, so I can play an outfield position and stay there. This offseason, I am going to take my twitch tool and speed into a huge consideration.”
Besides his draft prospect status, Morlando also is a South Carolina commit. In the summer, Morlando flipped his commitment from Mississippi State to South Carolina, his home-state university.
Morlando is a mature individual with a family-first mindset. His father, Perry, spent 20 years in the Air Force and was sometimes deployed during Morlando’s childhood. It caused him to develop a tight relationship with his mother, Christy, and sister, Lennea.
If Morlando bypasses pro ball for college, South Carolina allows Morlando’s family to attend his games conveniently. Morlando also appreciates his relationship with the South Carolina coaching staff and its history of developing players for the professional ranks.
“South Carolina is the place I can call home,” Morlando said. “The first day I went there just on a little visit for a tour after I decommitted, there were three people that are friends of mine that are committed to South Carolina that were waiting outside the stadium with a South Carolina flag and a sign saying, ‘Come home PJ.’ It made my mom tear up, and it made me feel like I belonged.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 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.