MMO Top 20 Mets Prospects – #18 Akeel Morris, RHP

Welcome to the third installment of the official MMO 2012 Mets Top 20 Prospects list, featuring RHP Akeel Morris of the Kingsport Mets, at #18. When the Mets made Morris their 10th round pick in the 2010 draft, they were drafting a player based on pure potential. Although raw as a pitcher, the power and talent were clearly there. The only reason he was still available in the 10th round, was similar as to the reason the Mets were criticized by some for drafting Brandon Nimmo 13th overall this past June. There were questions about the level of competition the players played in high school. In Nimmo’s case, he played no HS baseball but instead played American Legion Ball in Wyoming. In Morris’ case, he was playing kids in the Virgin Islands, where baseball is not a mainstream sport, and the players are rather inexperienced. Well that certainly hasn’t slowed down Morris’ development any, and in an interview with Mack Ade, of Mack’s Mets, Morris says he doesn’t think that the competition level was a negative factor in his early development:

I feel coming up playing baseball in the Virgin Islands was very competitive. There is no doubt there is a lot of talent down there, but, after a certain age, baseball start to slow down in terms of games played. And coming here stateside and playing baseball, to me the difference is players stateside takes the game really serious, and they play a lot more baseball.

He showed up stateside for the 2010 season as a 17-year-old in the GCL, and threw 25 IP, going 1-1 and putting up a 2.19 ERA. In 2011 he pitched in a very talented starting rotation in Kingsport of the rookie level Appalachian League. Making 11 starts for the KMets, Morris went 3-2 with a 3.86 ERA, in 51 IP, he gave up a mere 30 hits, while striking out 61 and walking 38. It’s the 10.7 K/9 that really stands out about his peripherals, but his 6.7 BB/9 show that there remains command and mechanical issues that need to be straightened out before he can harness his blazing fastball.

I was able to interview Akeel last week and he was nice enough to answer some questions for our readers. This is what he had to say:

Petey:  First of all Akeel, congratulations on a terrific season in 2011. Your development over the last two seasons has been fun to watch and you have been making great progress. Thank you so much for sharing a little of your time. The readers at Mets Merized Online will really enjoy reading about you, and getting to know a little bit more about one of our future Mets. When the Mets drafted you in the 10th round of the 2010 MLB Player Draft, how did you first hear about it, and what was that feeling like?

Akeel:  When I was drafted, the first person I heard it from was from my mom. She was following the draft all day. I felt pretty good about it at that time because I know I had an opportunity to play pro baseball now.

Petey:  Is there one person, a coach, a friend or family member, or even another player, who you learned the most from, or who inspired you to chase your dream of becoming a major league baseball player?

Akeel:  I wouldn’t say there was one person in particular because I learned alot of different things from alot of different people. As I was growing up my family and best friends inspired me to chase the dream.

Petey:  We have heard that you throw very hard, and your K/9 of 10.5, would seem to indicate that as well, but could you tell us a little more about your arsenal? What pitches you throw, at what speeds, and are you working on any new pitches moving forward?

Akeel:  As of now I’m throwing a fastball, curveball and a change up. My fastball is usually low to mid 90’s, it peaked at 96 this season. Curveball is mid to upper 70’s, and change up is upper 70’s to low 80’s.

Petey:  Quite a bit of positive things happened for you in 2011, as a member of a very strong and talented starting rotation at Kingsport. You led the team in strikeouts, and were very difficult to hit, giving up only 30 hits in 51.1 IP, but also had a high number of walks with 38. What steps are you taking to cut down on the bases on balls?

Akeel:  I’m working on repetition of my mechanics. That should help alot.

Petey:  What kind of things will you do to stay in shape over the winter? Can you describe your workout regimen? Do you plan on playing winter ball?

Akeel:  To stay in shape I’ll basically do the traditional running, agility, upper body exercises, lower body exercises, and core. I don’t think I’m playing winter ball right now.

Petey:  What was your favorite baseball team growing up? Your favorite player?

Akeel:  My favorite A.L team was the Red Sox and my favorite N.L team was the Mets. Favorite player was Derek Jeter.

Petey:  Is there a major league pitcher that you think you are similar to in style? Or someone that you can see yourself pitching like someday in the majors?

Akeel:  Well, I like to see Tim Lincecum pitch. I like his dominant fastball and his curve ball and change up that he can both use as put away pitches. He’s someone I would like to pitch similar to.

Petey:  What are your goals for next season? Is there a particular club you hope to make out of spring training? Have the Mets made any indication of what they are planning for you next season, or are those things decided in ST?

Akeel:  For next season my goals are just to perform at wherever the organization decides to put me. I don’t know when or how the decisions are made.

Petey:  Pick one teammate that really impressed you with his play this year at Kingsport, and tell us what it was that made you take notice.

Akeel:  Its really hard to pick one teammate, of all my teammates, who I was impressed with for different reasons. I would say I was most impressed with Dustin Lawley for his power, speed, athleticism, and ability to play infield and outfield during the season.

Petey:  And to finish up Akeel, just a little personal info, not pertaining to baseball. What is your favorite movie? Favorite musician or band? Favorite food?

Akeel:  Well, my favorite movies are the five Fast and Furious movies. I listen to alot of different types of music so I won’t say I have a favorite musician, and my favorite food is rice and chicken.

Petey:  Thank you so much Akeel! Mets fans everywhere will love reading this interview, and we all really appreciate you taking the time to chat. Enjoy the rest of the off-season, and we’ll see you in the Spring!

Akeel:  No problem, thanks for the opportunity.

It seems to me that Morris, along with many other Mets minor leaguers these days, are not only intelligent and talented, but they have an innate understanding of what they need to do to succeed in baseball. This self-awareness combined with motivation and drive, is a good recipe for helping players to maximize their abilities.

Though a long-shot for a long-season league next year, if Morris doesn’t earn a spot at Savannah coming out of ST, look for him to be one of the anchors of the Brooklyn Cyclone starting rotation in 2012.

Check back for the rest of my 2012 Top 20 Mets Prospect List, right here on MMO.

Next Up: Number 17

My short list includes:

  •    Collin McHugh     RHP
  •    Darin Gorski        LHP
  •    Juan Urbina         LHP
  •    Jefry Marte           3B