Eli Morgan has had his ups and downs in his rookie season with the Cleveland Indians, but is having a better August. So where does he fit into Cleveland’s 2022 pitching plans?
You can never have too much pitching.
You’ve heard that adage millions upon millions of times by now, but it remains as true as ever, especially in this injury-riddled 2021 season for the Cleveland Indians.
Even with Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac missing significant time, the starting rotation has not only been able to weather the storm, but the Indians have gotten extended looks at numerous young pitchers in their system, and have gotten some very positive returns in the process.
While Cal Quantrill and Triston McKenzie have likely solidified roles in the 2022 starting rotation, other names are going to be left in pitching purgatory. One such name is 25-year-old Eli Morgan.
The rookie has had an up-and-down year, currently sporting a 5.98 ERA and 76 ERA+. After a really bumpy start in which he had a 9.37 ERA in his first four starts, Morgan has settled in with a decent August, as he has a 4.28 ERA in five starts.
Most importantly, Morgan has been able to cut down on the long ball, giving up just two home runs this month. His height might always make him a flyball pitcher, but it will always come down to using a four-pitch arsenal to keep hitters off-balance – Morgan does feature a decent chase rate. He has great control, he knows his way around the strike zone, and he makes the most of what he has.
Morgan certainly won’t overpower you with his stuff, though; his fastball tops out in the low 90s at best, and none of the advanced metrics are really in his favor at the moment.
So how does he fit into Cleveland’s future plans?
Unfortunately for Morgan, in an ideal scenario, he isn’t likely in the immediate plans for 2022. Assuming everyone comes back healthy, the first-ever Cleveland Guardians rotation would likely feature Bieber, Civale, Plesac, Quantrill and McKenzie. Morgan would most likely begin the season at Triple-A Columbus, along with Logan Allen and J.C. Mejia, both of whom had tough years in Cleveland. Sam Hentges’ future with the Guardians could very well be in the bullpen.
The other arms in Cleveland’s farm system further complicate Morgan’s future. Guys like Peyton Battenfield and Cody Morris are knocking on the door of the majors as well – both could find their way to Cleveland as early as next year.
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There is always the possibility that Cleveland trades some of its young arms for major-league talent that will help the team contend in 2022. That is more of a long-shot given the eternal unpredictability of pitching; again, the moment you think you’re set is the moment you should probably go out and get more.
But Morgan could have a very hard time cracking the major-league rotation in the near future no matter what, and he doesn’t have the kind of stuff that would make him an ideal candidate for the bullpen, though it’s not out of the question.
After all, there’s a reason Morgan was the organization’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
This year has shown that you can just never predict how a season will play out. Even if Morgan is not in Cleveland’s immediate 2022 plans, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for him to get some more seasoning down in Triple-A; that’s what he was supposed to be doing this season anyway.
But he’ll also likely be back in Cleveland at some point, and is a fine backend-of-the-rotation option, proving once again that the Indians’ pitching pipeline remains unmatched.