When acquired in a 2018 trade, Yohanse Morel was considered an afterthought. Now he finds himself as one of the Kansas City Royals’ top 30 prospects.
When the Kansas City Royals were looking to trade Kelvin Herrera for prospects in 2018, he was a top bullpen arm. After the Royals moved him for Kelvin Gutierrez, Blake Perkins, and some 17-year-old kid that no one had ever heard of, many of us were disappointed. But there is a real chance now that the kid no one had ever heard of ends up being the real value in that trade.
When the Washington Nationals brought in Kelvin Herrera to pitch badly for them down the stretch in 2019, they traded away a kid that had been born in the year 2000 and had pitched a grand total of 3.1 innings in the Dominican Summer League. In those 3 innings, Yohanse Morel had given up six hits and a walk. But that was not all he did. He also struck out 5.
How the Royals possibly knew they wanted this player in a trade based on that résumé I will never know. But what he has done since the trade has validated their scouting.
Morel would pitch 43.2 innings for the AZL Royals in 2018 and he would strike out 47. He was 3 and a half years younger than the average player in that league. He finished with a 1.29 WHIP. He worked with 3 pitches: a 93 MPH fastball, a wipeout slider, and a change-up. Below is a video from 2080 Baseball showing him work in Arizona last fall.
Yohanse would spend 2019 in the South Atlantic League playing for the Kansas City Royals team in Lexington. Again, he would be nearly 4 years younger than his average competition. While most kids his age were finishing high school, Morel was striking out 57 professional hitters over 52.1 innings. He started 11 games and finished with an xFIP of 3.93. He did give up 64 hits over those 52 innings, so it was far from a perfect season. But, clearly, the kid has world-class talent.
The Royals have Morel listed at 6’0 and 170 lbs. But, as you can see in the video above from Clint Scoles, Yohanse is built thick and powerful. And, with his full extension, also appears to pitch taller than he really is. He throws with confidence. He carries himself with some attitude on the mound. For a pitcher that is always the youngest player on the diamond, I come away very impressed with his demeanor.
According to Baseball Savant at MLB, Morel has added some velocity to his fastball and now throws it as high as 96. By all accounts, his slider is still developing as a plus pitch and his change-up may still, ultimately, be his best offering.
We are still a few years away from Morel threatening to show up on the major league roster. He will still need to learn how to adjust and how to deal with adversity, as all young ballplayers do. But that is no reason not to get excited watching him work his way through the system. I expect to see him shoot up the prospects list in 2020. He appears to have both the makeup and the stuff to become a big-league starting pitcher.