Breakout Potential: Why Brandon Morrow Is More Than Just A Strikeout Source

Brandon Morrow is a name we have all heard about in recent years.  Whether it was the potential of being a lights out closer in Seattle early in his career or a blow away strikeout pitcher in Toronto, there has always been intrigue surrounding him from a fantasy perspective.

While the Mariners started his transition back to the rotation, the Toronto Blue Jays have given him his true opportunity to shine in the role.  He has exclusively been a starting pitcher since joining the team prior to the 2010 season, so should fantasy owners be prepared to reap the benefits of their patience?  Before we get started, let’s take a look at what he accomplished in his second full season as a starting pitcher:

11 Wins
179.1 Innings
4.72 ERA
1.29 WHIP
203 Strikeouts (10.19 K/9)
69 Walks (3.46 BB/9)
.299 BABIP

The 27-year old has struck out 381 batters in 325.1 innings over the past two seasons, so there should be no doubt about his ability to generate swings and misses.  Armed with a fastball that has averaged over 93 mph the past two seasons, he will help to buoy fantasy owners in this regard.

The question is if he can help teams in other categories?  He showed improving control last season after having posted a 4.46 BB/9 over his minor league career (and a 4.06 mark in 2010).  He actually was consistent all year long, so it’s hard to call it unsustainable.  Just look at the numbers over the final four months of the year:

  • June (31.0 IP) – 3.19
  • July (37.0 IP) – 3.16
  • August (30.2 IP) – 3.23
  • September (36.2 IP) – 3.68

So we know we have elite strikeout stuff and improving control, what exactly is there not to like about Morrow?  Sure, if you look at the numbers on the surface the ERA would be more than enough to scare off owners.  However, we can easily point to last year’s 65.5% strand rate as the culprit.  If he had posted even just a league average mark in that regard the ERA would’ve been under 4.00.

Yes, there is concern regarding pitching in the difficult AL East.  While he may have handled the Yankees in 2011 (1.74 ERA over 20.2 IP), the opposite can be said about the Red Sox (12.32 ERA over 19.0 IP).  Can we expect those numbers to continue?  It’s impossible to predict any pitcher to dominate the Yankees like that every single season (though will the Red Sox really be able to shell him again).

However, while the consistent matchups are reason to downgrade him slightly they are not enough to completely write him off.  Many pitchers have proven that they can not only pitch well in the AL East, but that they can perform among the elite in the game.  If you don’t want to use CC Sabathia as an example, since he plays for the Yankees, how about Jon Lester or David Price?  Both should enter 2012 considered among the Top 15 starting pitchers in the league.

In other words, to think Morrow can’t take the next step due to the division he pitches in would be a drastic mistake.  Maybe he’s not on the level of those elite pitchers, but there is reason to think he can thrive.

As we enter 2012 we no longer have to worry about an innings limit.  Seeing him throw over 200 innings will be likely, and that will almost certainly mean another 200+ strikeout campaign.  If he can simply replicate last year’s control along with that, his numbers are going to be impressive.

Obviously he is not going to be an early round pick, but if you can get Morrow as a pitcher to fill out your rotation (according to Mock Draft Central his ADP is 181.62).  He’s a player I will certainly be targeting in all formats and I would recommend you doing the same.

What are your thoughts of Morrow?  Is he a player you would be willing to draft?  Why or why not?

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Make sure to check out our 2012 projections:


  1. Phillysnowballthrower says:

    Thank you for this article. I’m sold to give him a fly in the later rounds

  2. knuckleballer says:

    Good article and the numbers to show a breakout candidate. One question though is this low strand rate more than a fluke? I’ve watched Morrow before and he does seem to get rattled when men get on and struggles to keep his cool and get out’ve it. I wonder if there are many pitchers who have consistently performed below their peripherals due to an ability to handle pressure more than anything else and avoid the big inning.

    • Rotoprofessor says:

      There are, but you have to think (or maybe hope) that with more experience as a starting pitcher that he will learn to get over those issues. It will be interesting to see, but it’s wealth worth gambling on.

    • GAHHH says:

      He absolutely loses it pitching from the stretch. Many theories into whether this affects his actual pitches (higher in the zone) or if it’s mental. Either way, similar to Ricky Nolasco, he will defy saber-metrics regarding “luck”. “Luck” stats only apply to pitchers who actually pitch the same with men on.

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