The Mariners have gone with prep selections in the first three rounds for the first time in Jerry Dipoto’s tenure as GM, taking RHP Michael Morales from East Pennsboro HS in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft.
Morales shows more polished mechanics than a typical high school pitcher, with a repeatable delivery and controlled arm action; the tradeoff for that is he doesn’t have the loudest stuff in the prep class, sitting more in the low 90s, and at a lean 6’1” Morales doesn’t necessarily project as the body type who will add a ton of height and strength and therefore velocity. Morales also throws a knee-buckling high-70s curveball, reportedly his best secondary, and a changeup. Because of his advanced feel for pitching even as a high school arm, he carries less reliever risk than some of the other bigger arms in this class, and projects to stick in a rotation, although where exactly that is will depend on his development path.
Morales’ draft stock took a hit when he showed poorly in the Perfect Game National Showcase last June—his first game action since receiving a PRP injection in his knee—but to his credit, he took that adverse experience as an opportunity to push himself, joining a men’s senior league and regaining his confidence. Morales impressed scouts at the final few showcase events in the pandemic-shortened 2020 showcase season, and then again in 2021. He’s been one of the steadiest risers in the 2021 class.
Vanderbilt is seen as one of the more difficult college commitments to break, so it will be curious to see how far overslot the Mariners plan on going with their third-round pick after reportedly sticking to slot with their first two picks.