The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, August 18, 2021 8:40 pm

Low-A pitcher promoted to TinCaps

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

One day after TinCaps right-hander Moises Lugo was promoted to Double-A San Antonio, leaving a hole in the Fort Wayne rotation, the Padres sent 22-year-old left-hander Gabe Morales from Low-A Lake Elsinore to Fort Wayne. 

Morales has big shoes to fill: Lugo was among the league leaders in strikeouts and ERA before departing for San Antonio and he was the last pitcher from Fort Wayne's Opening Day rotation that was still in the team's five-man starting stable. It's not official that Morales will replace Lugo in the rotation – the team still lists Saturday, the day Lugo would have started, as a TBD in its pitching schedule – but it seems likely that Morales will get the nod that day. Although he hasn't been starting with Lake Elsinore, his last three appearances, all in relief, have all seen him pitch at least three innings and as many as four in one outing. Overall, Morales is 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA in 22 appearances (five starts) this season.

The TinCaps have gotten some very good performances from the pitchers the Padres have sent them from Low-A this season. Carlos Guarate, Connor Lehmann and Noel Vela have all turned in a few good outings and Fort Wayne is likely hoping Morales will add to that trend.

The southpaw is a strikeout pitcher. He possesses a fastball that sat in the mid-90s in 2019 when he was 20 (it's possible he throws even harder now) and an impressive breaking ball and changeup that can each induce swings and misses. In 59 innings with the Storm this season, Morales has whiffed 82 batters, which is right in line with the terrific numbers he put up at rookie ball in 2018 and 2019.

If Morales has a flaw in his game right now, it is, as with so many young pitchers with electric stuff, his command. The 2016 international free agent signing walked just 2.59 hitters per nine innings in 2019, but when he jumped up a level this season, he struggled to avoid free passes. In his 59 innings, he's walked 36 hitters, hit three and unleashed 10 wild pitches. There are times when he doesn't fully finish through his motion and that can lead to his fastball missing on the arm side, away from right-handed hitters. Still, Morales' stuff is plenty good enough to get outs at High-A and he held hitters to a .217 batting average at the lower level; even as he's struggled to find the zone at times, not many hitters have squared him up.

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