No. 48: RHP Michael Morrison
Morrison was drafted by the Tigers in the 29th round of the 2009 draft out of Cal State Fullerton. He is a Tommy John survivor, but in this day and age, that really doesn't mean a whole lot, especially now since he's 2 years removed from the surgery. He is strictly a relief pitcher, and had a very good 2012 season with Double A-Erie, striking out more than a batter per inning while allowing opponents to hit just .205 off of him. He was sent in the Tigers contingent to the Arizona Fall League, where he again posted solid numbers, albeit in the tiny sample size of only 9 2/3 IP. He will turn 25 in mid-December, and should be on the Tigers radar during the 2013 season if they are in need of another relief arm due to injuries, etc.
Morrison stands only 6'1", which doesn't really fit the profile of a hard throwing right hander, but as we've seen with guys like Brayan Villarreal, size does not tell the whole story. Morrison sits right around 91-93 with his fastball, but it's common to see him ramp it up into the mid-90's when he needs it. His height doesn't allow him to the type of downward plane you'd like to see on the fastball, which causes him to have issues commanding the pitch down in the zone. It is hittable when it's left up, but I don't consider that to be a major flaw. Morrison also throws a slider which sits in the low-80's, and at times flashes the potential to be a legitimate major league strikeout pitch. It has shown good, hard, late break out of the zone, and is effective against both right-handed and left-handed hitters. I'd like to see Morrison be able to throw the slider for strikes with more consistency, but that may come in time. He, like many Tigers prospects, can struggle with walks. He walked 40 in 63 innings during the 2012 season, which is definitely a significant amount. If he can reign in his command and control a bit, his ceiling could increase.
Right now Morrison has the ceiling of a 6th-7th inning reliever. In 1-2 inning stints, his fastball plays up a few ticks, and the sharpness on his slider is also better, making him a legitimate strikeout threat out of the bullpen. As I said before, he pitched very well at Double A-Erie in 2012, so barring some kind of setback, we should see him open 2013 in Triple-A Toledo, and he could be rather high on the totem pole in terms of potential callups to Detroit in case of injury. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that we will see Morrison in Detroit during the 2013 season, even if it's just for the cup of coffee handful of innings debut.