Brandon Morrow
Brandon Morrow
34-Year-Old PitcherRP
Chicago Cubs
10-Day IL
Injury Elbow
Est. Return 5/15/2019
2019 Fantasy Outlook
On the strength of his brilliant run with the Dodgers, Morrow landed a two-year contract with the Cubs last offseason. The team anointed him the closer before camp even began and Morrow rewarded the organization's faith with excellent ratios and 22 successful save conversions in 24 chances over the first half of the year. Unfortunately, injuries, as they often have throughout his career, derailed what was shaping up to be a great season. Morrow said initially that he didn't expect a long-term absence due to the biceps inflammation, but the issue only worsened during his attempts to ramp back up. The skills weren't as good as the surface numbers would suggest during his time on the field (25.4 K%, 7.4 BB%, 93 LOB%). Morrow underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow in November and is not expected to be ready to begin the regular season. Read Past Outlooks
RANKSFrom Preseason
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$Signed a two-year, $21 million contract with the Cubs in December of 2017.
Throwing program shut down
PChicago Cubs
April 20, 2019
Manager Joe Maddon said Saturday that the Cubs will "slow things down" with Morrow (elbow) after he experienced discomfort during a recent side session, Patrick Mooney of The Athletic reports.
There had been some optimism that Morrow might be back from the 10-day injured list in early May, but the setback probably takes that off the table. The right-hander is now without a concrete timeline for a return from offseason elbow surgery, which could prompt the Cubs to explore the market for other late-inning reinforcements. Even if Morrow's shutdown period remains brief, there's no guarantee he'll reclaim the closer role he held last season once he returns. That might make it tough to justify stashing him in fantasy leagues with limited bench or IL spots.
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2017
No Stats
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2017vs Left .138 118 34 9 15 0 0 1
Since 2017vs Right .245 174 47 9 40 4 0 1
2019vs Left 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019vs Right 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018vs Left .151 58 15 5 8 0 0 1
2018vs Right .271 64 16 4 16 1 0 1
2017vs Left .125 60 19 4 7 0 0 0
2017vs Right .231 110 31 5 24 3 0 0
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2017
ERA at Home
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ERA on Road
ERA at Home
Since 2017Home 1.63 0.85 38.2 2 0 13 8.6 2.1 0.5
Since 2017Away 2.02 1.12 35.2 4 0 11 11.1 2.3 0.0
2019Home 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2019Away 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018Home 1.65 0.86 16.1 0 0 12 8.8 2.8 1.1
2018Away 1.26 1.33 14.1 0 0 10 9.4 2.5 0.0
2017Home 1.61 0.85 22.1 2 0 1 8.5 1.6 0.0
2017Away 2.53 0.98 21.1 4 0 1 12.2 2.1 0.0
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
Following up on his successful but modest transition to the bullpen for 18 games in 2016, Morrow exploded as a fantasy relief weapon (even as a non-closer) in his 2017 debut with the Dodgers. The former high-strikeout but injury-prone starter revived his dormant dominance, fanning 50 in 43.2 innings. His fastball velocity was boosted by 2.7 mph, and his budding cutter reached the next level. Oh, and he ditched his lethargic sinker. He thrived in peppering the strike zone, posting a 15.9 percent swinging-strike rate and 69.4 percent first-pitch strike rate -- both career bests. Morrow landed a two-year deal with the Cubs in free agency and is considered the favorite to close as of mid-December. Even if Chicago adds another back-end arm, these are skills worth buying to round out a fantasy pitching staff.
Shoulder trouble plagued Morrow throughout the first half of the 2016 campaign, which he spent trying to stretch out as a starter at Triple-A El Paso. Upon being called up by San Diego in August, Morrow shifted to the bullpen, where he returned a tidy 1.69 ERA over 16 appearances. Interestingly enough, he struggled to miss bats, carrying an 11.8 percent K% (4.5 K/9) despite a 10.3 percent swinging-strike rate, and his low ERA was supported by an extremely high LOB% (93.8 percent). In terms of stuff, Morrow still has an intriguing arsenal, boasting a fastball, cutter, slider and changeup while showing velocity in line with his previous career levels. While the FIP (4.33) doesn't support the impressive results, the surprisingly low strikeout rate appears to be a fluke. Morrow's days as a starter may be over, but at age 32, he could still have enough left in the tank to emerge as a quality bullpen piece if the permanent role change allows him to shake the injury bug.
When Morrow hit the DL with right shoulder inflammation in early May, he said he should be ready to return after the minimum 15 days. He did not end up returning for San Diego, as recurring discomfort continually set him back in his recovery. By late July, it was looking like he would end up pitching again for the big club -- Morrow had worked his way back up to Triple-A El Paso -- but he was ultimately pulled off his rehab assignment and forced to undergo an arthroscopic procedure in August. His recovery timetable was established at three-to-four months, which would theoretically put him on track for the start of spring training, but Morrow was forced to settle for a minor league deal with San Diego in the offseason. If indeed healthy, Morrow should compete for a rotation spot in spring training, but the durability concerns will likely take him off the radar in most standard mixed leagues.
Morrow was a favorite of fantasy gamers who use advanced numbers to scout talent. Back in 2010-11, Morrow had a 4.62 ERA in 326 innings, but his 3.42 FIP and incredible 27 percent strikeout rate hinted at substantial upside. The payoff came in the form of a 2.96 ERA in 2012, but what happened to the supporting skills? The strikeout rate tumbled to 21 percent, and Morrow’s biggest issue, the injury bug, remained ever-present. A strained oblique limited him to just 125 innings during the breakout season, and a rash of injury-riddled seasons have continued through 2014. The skills fade from 2012 has continued and has been accompanied by a complete implosion of his value thanks to a 5.65 ERA in just 88 innings the last two seasons. The question is whether the skills are actually gone or if it is just the constant stream of injuries. It’s not crazy to blame it on the injuries, but will they ever go away? Make Morrow show you something before investing. He'll compete for the final spot in the Padres' rotation this spring with the likes of Odrisamer Despaigne, Robbie Erlin, and Matt Wisler.
After finally breaking out in 2012, Morrow posted an ugly 5.63 ERA over 54.1 innings during his injury-shortened 2013 campaign. Injuries have marred the talented right-hander's career to this point, and his strikeouts have fallen off in a big way. Morrow posted a 10.2 K/9 in 2010, with that number dropping to 7.8 during his excellent 2012 season, then all the way down to 7.0 in 2013. While the injury and strikeout concerns remove a bit of the luster, Morrow still has the talent to be a frontline starter. He's expected to be healthy for the start of spring training, though it's anyone's guess how long he will remain that way.
Morrow finally had the breakout season that had been expected of him for years, finishing 10-7 with a 2.97 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. A strained oblique mid-season does raise concerns about his ability to stay healthy, as he pitched only 124.2 innings in 2012. Morrow's K/9 dropped to 7.8 and his BABIP was .252, however, a better walk rate and more steady supply of groundballs might help this breakout continue into 2013.
It wasn't quite the season where Morrow finally put all the pieces together, but it was another step in the right direction. He improved his command just enough (3.5 BB/9IP) to keep his ERA (4.72) palatable despite pitching in a tough AL East en route to a career-high 203 strikeouts. His homer-prone tendencies didn't play well at home (1.500 WHIP, 6.31 ERA at home; 1.068 WHIP, 3.07 ERA on the road) and a career high in innings pitched may have taken their toll down the stretch as 13 of his 21 homers allowed came in his last 11 starts. Life in the AL East is never going to be easy but if he can improve his command another tick he could take another step forward. He'll be back as the Jays' No. 2 starter behind Ricky Romero.
Morrow finally got an extended look as a starter last season following a trade to the Jays and began to put things together (10.9 K/9IP). He was held to just eight starts in the second half as the Jays wanted to limit his workload but did show slightly improved command as the season wore on. Over his final 17 starts, Morrow went 7-3 with a 3.46 ERA, 1.224 WHIP with a 119:38 K:BB ratio in 101.1 innings. If he can improve his control a tick -- or even just maintain his improvement from the second half of 2010 -- he could take another step forward. For now, though, he'll provide excellent strikeout numbers as the Jays' No. 2 starter behind Ricky Romero.
Morrow just couldn't get off the starter-reliever merry-go-round, and another year of indecision again stunted his career. A starter in spring, Morrow was in the bullpen by Opening Day, only to lose the closer job in early May. He then spent most of the summer in the minors reinventing himself yet again. Upon returning to the Seattle rotation for four September starts, Morrow showed some of the promise that made him a first-round pick, including an eight-inning one-hitter in his final start with a career-high nine strikeouts. Morrow is still a work in progress as a starter – command is his biggest issue, and he needs to mix his pitches more effectively -- but a high-90s fastball and a quality slider still provide upside. It looks like he may finally get a chance to develop as a starter in the majors after being traded to Toronto.
It happened nearly two years later than it should have, but the Mariners finally committed to Morrow as a starting pitcher in 2008. After notching a 1.47 ERA in the bullpen and converting 10 of 12 save opportunities in place of an injured J.J. Putz, Morrow was sent to Triple-A Tacoma in August to transition to a starter. When he returned in September, he made five starts, impressing in three of those and getting rocked in two. His five homers allowed and 12 of his 18 earned runs came in those two botched starts. Morrow needs to locate more consistently and limit the walks, but he has excellent upside with a high-90's fastball and effective slider. He posted a 10.4 K/9IP overall, 9.0 as a starter. With Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard, Morrow gives the Mariners an outstanding trio atop the rotation. There is a chance that Morrow goes back to closing with J.J. Putz traded, but new general manager Jack Zduriencik suggested that's not necessarily going to happen.
With just 16 professional innings to his name - and only three above rookie ball - Morrow was a surprise choice to make the bullpen out of spring training last year. He was inconsistent throughout the season and relied almost exclusively on his mid-90's fastball at the expense of developing secondary pitches, throwing the heater on 80.1 percent of pitches. That's fine for a reliever who faces 3-5 batters a game, but if the 2006 first-round pick is to ever start as originally intended, he needs to learn how to actually pitch. To that end, the Mariners sent Morrow to the Venezuelan Winter League to prepare for a rotation spot this year. He performed well enough in Venezuela - 2.93 ERA, 29:7 K:BB, 8.52 K/9IP - but 30.2 innings across six winter ball starts isn't likely enough to stretch Morrow into a starter at this point. Don't be surprised if the Mariners end up sending him to Triple-A before handing him a rotation job. Morrow still has good upside, though he had control problems last year (66 strikeouts to 50 walks and a 7.11 BB/9).
The club's 2006 first-round draft pick, Morrow has a high-90s fastball and a mid-80s spilt-fingered fastball, making for a devastating combination. He needs to develop a consistent slider to make his four-pitch hand, which also includes a good changeup, complete. Morrow likely will start the year at High-A High Desert, but could advance quickly.
More Fantasy News
Facing live hitters
PChicago Cubs
April 12, 2019
Morrow (elbow) is throwing live batting practice sessions at extended spring training in Arizona, Bruce Levine of reports.
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Progressing as expected
PChicago Cubs
April 3, 2019
Morrow (elbow) is scheduled to throw one more bullpen before being cleared to face live hitters, Jesse Rogers of reports.
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Hits IL
PChicago Cubs
March 28, 2019
Morrow (elbow) was placed on the 10-day IL, Jordan Bastian of reports.
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Could head to minors in mid-April
PChicago Cubs
March 26, 2019
Morrow (elbow) said Monday that he believes he'll be ready to begin a minor-league rehab assignment in mid-April, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports.
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Tosses another bullpen
PChicago Cubs
March 21, 2019
Morrow (elbow) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Thursday, Jesse Rogers of reports.
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