In the tenth round of the 2010 draft, the New York Mets added right-handed pitcher Akeel Morris to the organization. The then 17-year old out of St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands was bursting with potential, however raw it may have appeared. The 6’1”, 170 pound hurler came equipped with an electric fastball, curveball, and change combination that he used to strike out a high rate of batters for the Brooklyn Cyclones this year.
In 45 innings pitched, Morris had a 1.00 ERA with a 1.156 WHIP, 12.0 SO/9 and a 4.6 BB/9. We even wrote about Morris’ past performance here at Mets Minors.
“I would usually work off of my fastball, and when I get my good fastball going and I’m hitting spots, I’ll use my changeup. “I was mainly using my fastball, changeup and changing speeds with those two pitches,” he says.
A combination that led him, despite serving primarily as a closer and pitching in a significantly fewer number of innings, to the ninth spot on the NYPL strikeout leaderboard.
After spending one year with the GCL Mets in 2010, Morris advanced to Kingsport for the next two seasons, before being promoted to Brooklyn in 2013, his first season out of rookie ball, and his first taste of the glimmering lights of New York.
“It was really great, I had a lot of fun. It was my first time actually being in front of a crowd, a consistent crowd.“ He continues, “It was really exciting for me and I liked the crowds.”
“Actually having to sign all of those autographs every night, was exciting too, along with the interviews. People always say it’s like a little taste of the big leagues playing in Brooklyn and I think it lived up to that. It was actually a little taste of it, and it was a lot of fun,” says the pitching prospect.
He’s an aggressive presence on the mound and it shows in his approach to opposing batters. This is a big factor in his high rate of strikeouts, although it occasionally comes at the cost of a few too many walked batters.
“I don’t feel any pressure, while on the mound, because when the adrenaline kicks in, I’m just ready to compete and all that’s in my head is to stay within myself and do well,” says Morris.
Scouts have criticized him for his “extreme” levels of exertion when throwing a pitch, claiming that this could limit his durability and hinder his pitch control. While these issues may claim to project future problems, there doesn’t seem to be any current indication of it’s effect.
“I feel like in games that I’ve started this year, I could have kept going. I pitched up to five innings but that’s just because of the pitch count. I feel like I can go deeper into games as a starter, and durability wise, I feel healthy and I don’t think that should be a problem,” says the right-hander.
Like all developing pitchers, Morris does have areas that could use improvement.
“I want to be able to control my fastball much better,” he says. “My goal is to keep throwing more strikes, and that’s what I really push for.”
“This off-season I’ve been getting stronger and trying to really emphasize repeating my mechanics and repeating every pitch I throw, whether it’s a fastball, curveball, or changeup, this way my mechanics don’t change.”
Morris even video tapes himself training to send it to coaches for them to critique. He is constantly working to improve and the strides he’s made only seem greater once you consider when he was actually put on the mound.
“I actually played shortstop until I was about 16 years old and then I began pitching,” says Morris.
In case you forgot, he was drafted as “raw” talent primarily for his potential at the age of 17.
Just four years after being drafted, five years after becoming a pitcher, and Morris is dominating much of his competition, accumulating a 1.00 ERA and striking out an average of 12 batters per nine innings.
Even with these accomplishments in mind Morris isn’t satisfied.
“Right now I feel like what needs the most work is improving my mechanics and really consistently getting a good spin, and keeping my curveball down in the zone,” says the fireballer.
The desire to improve, combined with his hard-nosed attitude on the mound has given him the potential to produce into a true big league talent. An aggressive approach and the confidence to produce in any situation are traits valuable to any big league club. And even as he climbs the minor league ladder, Morris doesn’t plan on being shaken any time soon.
“When I get on the mound, I feel like, I shouldn’t be nervous and I try to get in a zone where I’m just thinking that, it’s just baseball. I’ve been playing this game all my life and that’s what it is, just a game, so I just try to keep it as simple as that,” says Morris.
We want to thank Akeel for his time and wish him a great season in 2014… LGM