Unlike many of the prospects for the KC Royals, Yohanse Morel is not in big league camp. But his potential still has him moving up the prospect rankings.
Welcome back to the Kings of Kauffman “Projecting the Prospects” series. For each of the KC Royals’ top 30 prospects, we review the best, worst, and most likely scenarios. Coming in at 30 this year is a name most fans of the KC Royals do not know. Yohanse Morel was acquired in the 2018 Kelvin Herrera trade that also brought Kelvin Gutierrez and Blake Perkins.
When Morel first appeared in the KC Royals organization he was a seventeen-year-old kid that was viewed as a throw-in piece to complete a trade. He had thrown less than 4 innings at that point in his professional career. What he has done since becoming a member of the Royals has been exciting — and more than anyone could have reasonably expected.
In his age 17 season, Morel would throw 47 innings of rookie ball. He would strike out 52 hitters and pitch to a FIP of 3.59. He pitched well enough that in 2019 the KC Royals moved the 18-year-old kid to A-ball in Lexington.
It is easy to see his 2019 statistics as a mixed bag. Over 52.1 innings, he still struck out more than a batter per inning. He still maintained a reasonable walk rate for his age. But his ERA did balloon to over six. His xFIP, however, was still under four, which would seem to suggest he had some bad luck with a few long balls. And, let us not forget, that he was nearly four years younger than the average hitter he was facing.
Morel begins to put it all together in 2020 and dominates High A ball in Wilmington. He becomes a leader on the pitching staff and learns to sequence his above-average secondary pitches to hitters from both sides of the plate. It would also be wonderful if he could add a little more consistent velocity to his fastball. He leads the Carolina League in strikeouts and has no trouble, once again, competing against players much older than he is. If he ends 2020 looking like he is ready to take on AA hitters, he will quickly become a top prospect on everyone’s list.
The gulf between possible outcomes for a player this age is immense. But Morel is still so very young even the worst outcome in 2020 would not eliminate his future potential. His stuff is too good, and he is still barely an adult. The worst possible outcome for him would be that he has health issues. We need Yohanse to stay healthy.
Most likely outcome:
Morel spends the 2020 season in Wilmington. He continues to put up excellent peripheral numbers. He struggles a bit early in the season, giving up more hits and home runs than we would hope. But he continues to work on repeating his delivery and release point the same every time. He begins to learn how to sequence his fastball with his secondary pitches and is good enough over the second half of the season to be in consideration for a spot in AA for 2021.
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We should not let Yohanse Morel get lost in the overcrowding with all our impressive pitching prospects. This young man is built like a starting pitcher. He already has two very good secondary pitches, both a slider and a changeup, which should allow him to do well against hitters from either side of the plate. And he already has a fastball that he can control and he can throw for 96 MPH. His numbers for both strikeouts and walks are very good through A-ball.
If he were a 23-year-old mid-round pitcher we drafted out of college, he would be interesting. As a young man who will only be 19 years old in 2020 and appears ready for High-A ball? He is downright electrifying.