People should pay attention to one of the Astros overlooked yet newest pitchers.
The lack of notable acquisition by the Astros for the starting rotation has been noted many times. But the front office did something to shore up the rotation in the offseason. It just happened to be not in the manner that most expected or desired.
And his name is Charlie Morton, who could end up being a bargain for Houston.
The reason I state that is simple as Morton is only making $14 million over two seasons. That’s not a lot of money in terms of baseball contracts. It’s a quite reasonable, low-risk deal that the Astros were wise to pursue.
First, let’s look at Morton’s velocity.
Morton’s average fastball velocity per Brooks Baseball last year was 95.22 MPH. His average fastball velocity in 2015 was 92.78 MPH. He actually had increased velocity across the board from all of his pitches. The caveat with Morton’s improved 2016 velocity is the sample size, which was only 17.1 innings pitched.
In light of this sample size, it is fair to ask whether this improved velocity will translate into meaningful success and if he will hold up all season long. Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with his mechanics, or mechanics in general, to answer it from that perspective. But if his increased velocity indeed holds up, we should be encouraged with the results.
Even with this brief sample size, Morton struck out 26.8% of the batters he faced. His groundball percentage also went up to 62.8%. On the other hand, he also saw his walk rate climb to 11.3%. There is clearly work to be done for the right-hander.
Morton’s debut as an Astro in Spring Training has been encouraging one though. He has went out and provided flashes why the front office did not seem eager to make additional acquisitions for the starting rotation.
Sure, the signing of Morton still doesn’t seem sexy like a theoretical acquisition of Jose Quintana or Chris Archer. He has an injury background despite his injury last season was a leg injury sustained while running the base paths. But there is talent and upside residing within him.
The difference one year makes on an opinion is something to behold. For example, the popular opinion on the Astros starting rotation last year was anything but negative. Fast forward to the beginning days of Spring in 2017 and it seems like the rotation has more question marks than answers. But Morton could be prove to be a valuable answer for the Astros.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball**