Morales was highly regarded as an amateur prospect in Venezuela, signing with the Phillies for $900K as a part of their impressive 2016-2017 J2 class. Philadelphia sent him straight to the GCL for his pro debut in 2017, and after being held back in Extended Spring Training to begin last season, Morales showed glimpses of his tantalizing potential by striking out 26-percent of batters in the Penn League as an 18-year-old.
Morales looks the part of a future workhorse and has filled out significantly since signing. He’s listed at 6’4’’ and 185 pounds but the team recorded him at 6’5’’ and 225 pounds entering Instructional League. He pitches from a low-maintenance semi-windup that looks capable of handling a starter’s workload. The fastball was 91-to-93 mph in my look, showing consistent downhill angle and slight cut action at times. Considering his body and delivery, it’s easy to see more velocity coming down the road, and Morales was reportedly scraping the 94-95 mph range at best this summer. His mid-80s slider is a separator, showing consistent depth and extra-long shape that’s very tough on righties. Morales missed bats with the pitch across a two-inning outing, and his slider looks to be a future above-average offering in time. A changeup at 87-to-88 mph is less advanced than his other two pitches, overthrown and acting more like a two-seam fastball. It’s enthusing he has a feel for a third at such a young age, however, and I didn’t see anything in the delivery to suggest he can’t make gains with the pitch.
The ceiling is very high for Morales, who will pitch the entire 2019 season as a 19-year-old. It will be interesting to see if the organization feels he can handle a challenging full-season assignment to begin next year. The ingredients are here for a physical mid-rotation starter with an above-average sinker/slider mix.