Yohandy Morales learned the game of baseball from his father, Andy, who was a member of the Cuban National Team and played in the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox organizations.
Morales is on track to follow in his father’s footsteps and play professional baseball in the future. The Miami third baseman is one of the top players in college baseball and a potential first-round pick in the 2023 MLB draft.
Morales credits his father for molding him into the player he is today.
“He’s been there my whole life and has made a huge impact,” Morales said. “One of the biggest things he has given me is just telling me that it is easier to get there but harder to stay there. I have remembered that this entire time. You just have to keep grinding because things aren’t given to you.”
Scouts viewed Morales as a top prep prospect in 2020. The Miami native drew pro interest but honored his commitment to his hometown university.
The decision has paid off for Morales. Staying near his home has allowed him to play in front of family and friends while developing his skills into a premium offensive player at a top college program. Despite the attention he’s receiving in anticipation of the 2023 draft, Morales is trying to keep a team-first mindset.
“I don’t see myself as that,” said Morales on his status as a draft prospect. “I just see myself as one of the guys on the team. I’m doing what I can to help the team win. I don’t let any of the attention get to me.”
Morales is a 6-foot-4, 218-pound third baseman known for his ability to hit for power to all fields. The right-handed hitter has streamlined his mechanics at the plate at Miami and now uses a simple setup and quick swing to consistently hit the ball hard.
He is an aggressive hitter who has above-average raw power. Scouts rave about his potential as a middle-of-the-order bat in pro ball.
“My biggest strength is my ability to hit for power and ability to drive in runs,” Morales said. “That is my job. That is what they have me here for.”
Morales performed well offensively in his first two years at Miami. He posted a .308 batting average with 30 doubles, six triples, 29 home runs and 104 RBIs in 451 at-bats. At times, he has expanded the strike zone, however, recording 109 strikeouts to 52 walks.
In the offseason, Morales worked on his plate discipline and mindset in the batter’s box. He has struggled against breaking pitches in his first two years. But he hopes his experience and improved mindset will translate into him attacking more strikes and laying off breaking pitches out of the strike zone.
Besides his offensive work, Morales also dedicated time to refining his tools at third base. He is a quality defender at third base after mostly playing shortstop in high school. His arm strength, throwing accuracy, athleticism and instincts have allowed him to thrive.
“It was a big adjustment,” Morales said. “I used to play third before I played shortstop, and my dad was a third baseman. It is different at this level. Moving to third base from shortstop, you have less reaction time, and the ball is hit a lot harder. It’s the hot corner. I’m super comfortable there now.”
Last season, Miami led the ACC most of the season until experiencing some losses late in the regular season. The Hurricanes then lost in an NCAA tournament regional, finishing with a 40-20 record.
Expectations for the Hurricanes this season are high, especially with Morales and first baseman CJ Kayfus back to anchor their lineup. They enter the season as a top-10 team in college baseball.
The Hurricanes have made 25 College World Series appearances in their history. But the last appearance came in 2016. This season, the Hurricanes hope to return to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, and capture their first national title since 2001.
“I want to go to Omaha,” Morales said. “That is the only goal. It is going to take a team effort from every single player. Everyone has to play a role in this. We have all the tools to make it to Omaha.”
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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.