Last night two starting pitchers who are headed in the opposite directions, pitched. One with the Phillies and the other with team’s farm team, the Clearwater Threshers. Both are lefties with similar stuff. They pound the strike zone, have low WHIPs but have lost more games than they have won this season. However one is on his way down and the other is on his way up.
Cliff Lee is a 33 year old veteran who had a career year last year with the Phillies but this year he can’t buy a win and is now struggling even to get a quality start. Last night against the Brewers he was roughed up for six runs in seven innings. Adam Morgan is a rising star who pitched a career game last night by striking out 13 with no walks in picking up only his fourth win of the season. Yet, like Lee, Morgan has pitched in a lot of tough luck this season.
With the signing of Cole Hamels at six years for $144 million the question remains how the Phillies can afford Cliff Lee and still remain under the Luxury Tax ceiling. The answer is they can’t. Seems to me they must move Cliff Lee sooner or later. When this happens the Phillies have a 22 year old left-hander who is the younger version of Lee waiting in the wings to take over.
Last night at Bright House Field, Baseball Betsy and I watch the best pitching performance we have seen this season in the Florida State League. Adam Morgan was dominating. The only run he gave up was on a balk. He was like a pitching machine pounding the strike zone with first pitch strikes with his mid 90′s fastball down in the zone and mixing in his off speed pitches. The hapless Dunedin Blue Jays did not have a chance in the 3-1 Threshers win. Adam so reminded me of Cliff Lee from last season and the 10 shutout innings he pitched earlier this season against the Giants when Lee would rack up the strike outs, walk no one and give up few runs.
Here’s a sample of Morgan’s strike outs from last night:
In the minor leagues it is so important to finish strong if a player has any hope of moving up. A lot rides on the last two months of the season for a September call up when the major league rosters are expanded, an invite to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, or even an invite as a non roster invitee to the major league spring training camp. With one more start in July Adam Morgan is having a July to remember and is positioning himself for future stardom. In five starts in the month he is 2-0 with a 1.39 ERA. He has struck out 44 and walked only five in 32.1 innings. Opponents are hitting only.167 against him in July.
As we have written about in previous blogs the Clearwater Threshers have arguably the three best young left-handed starting power pitchers in the minor leagues. Jesse Biddle, Austin Wright and Adam Morgan started the last three Thresher games. Combined they worked 22 innings, giving up 15 hits, 3 runs, 3 walks while striking out 27. The only runs Wright and Morgan gave up were centered around balks. These three pitchers are the main reasons why the Threshers took over first place last night in the second half of the Northern Division of the FSL.
Adam Morgan is my top ranked minor league Phillies pitching prospect. The signing of Cole Hamels should force the Phillies to move Cliff Lee to get salary relief to stay under the Luxury Tax penalty. This has opened the door for Adam Morgan and also Austin Wright and Jesse Biddle to move up quickly in the Phillies system. In the last three game for the Threshers they all have proved that they will soon be ready to move up to the Phillies major league starting rotation in the future. Can you project a major league starting rotation with four lefties and throw in Brody Colvin as the token right-handed starter? I can. And four of the five will be affordable.