As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Darin Ruf.
Name: Adam Morgan
Age:Was 26 in February
Experience: 15 starts
What we saw in 2015Phillies fans didn't expect much when Adam Morgan got called up. He was coming off a bad injury and had started the season in AAA going 0-6 with an ERA north of 5.
His first big league start saw him pitch into the sixth inning, while holding a very good St. Louis Cardinals squad to one run on six hits and two walks. He struck out six in the game.
He backed it up with seven innings of two-run ball and five strikeouts in a loss to the Braves.
From there, he went 4-6 with a 4.90 ERA.
There were some warts. He didn't miss a ton of bats and he gave up 1.5 homers per 9 innings.
But he didn't walk anyone and averaged 5 2/3 innings a start.
You could do worse as a fifth starter on most teams.
However, there are more signs of hope. It was his first year in the majors, while he was battling back from an injury. He did miss more bats before the injury. And if you take away two of his last three starts, he has a 3.94 ERA and a 1.192 WHIP. Also, he gave up 2 or fewer runs after pitching six or more innings (so even better than a quality start) in a seven of his 15 starts, while he gave up more than three runs in a five of his starts. In his other three starts, he had a 4.5 ERA.
Important goals for 2016Keep the ball in the yard: Adam Morgan had a fairly impressive home run rate of .6 through his first three minor league seasons. His injury derailed that a bit. It's unlikely he'll get back to that rate, but if he can get batters back to a 1.1 or a 1.2 rate, that would be big. That might mean pitching inside to a select few batters early in the season (read into that what you will). That might mean going with more breaking balls. Either way, he's got to drop that rate from 1.5.
Keep that walk rate pristine: Morgan showed he can use the strike zone. If he can get more pitches called on the black, his strikeout rate will improve while keeping his walk rate low. That might even help him keep the ball in the yard.
Stay on the mound: Morgan is coming off of a bad injury, so you want to see him pitch a lot this year. He was on the mound for a hair over 150 innings last year. If he can do that again for the Phillies, they're going to be happy. If they can get 170-180 innings from him, they've got a cog in the rotation going forward filled.
If the Phillies are indeed going to become contenders at some point soon, they need to hit on a guy no one expects them to. Jerad Eickhoff, as I pointed out earlier, is a candidate for that role. Morgan also fits that bill.
Health is the No. 1 factor here. If he stays healthy, his natural progression is likely to become better than a replacement level starter.