One obvious place that the Milwaukee Brewers could stand to make additional moves before the start of Spring Training is in their bullpen. As the saying goes, “you can never have too many arms.” David Stearns apparently agrees, as his club was linked to a possible late-inning candidate in Pedro Strop earlier this week and he added another veteran depth arm to the mix in Mike Morin this afternoon:
RHP Mike Morin has been signed to a minor-league contract with an invitation to Major League camp. pic.twitter.com/i7rgfrSGIl— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) January 22, 2020
Morin, who turns 29 in May, began his career as a 13th round pick back in 2012 with the Angels. He made it to the big leagues by 2014 and quickly became a fixture in the bullpen, posting a 2.90 ERA in 59.0 innings covering 60 appearances as a rookie. He punched out 8.24 K/9 while yielding only 2.9 BB/9, earning strong accompanying marks of 79 FIP- and a 72 DRA-. In terms of actual results, that would prove to be the best season of Morin’s career so far.
Since the start of 2015, Morin has generally been someone who has underpitched his peripherals, getting stung by high BABIP totals even while posting strong K/BB numbers. Over his last 165.2 innings (178 appearances), Morin has coughed up a 5.27 ERA. But he’s also punched out 138 batters against 40 walks while putting together a 3.78 FIP. Morin, who thrives at controlling quality of contact, was often stung by abnormally high BABIP totals. His struggles in preventing runs have led a number of scenery changes for Morin over the last four years, bouncing from Anaheim to Kansas City to Seattle to Minnesota and finally to Philadelphia, where he finished out last season.
Morin tallied 50+ innings in 2019 for the first time three seasons, piling up 50.2 frames with split between the Twins and Phillies. He posted a career-low 1.8 BB/9, ranked in the 98th percentile at limiting exit velocity and the 96th percentile in suppressing hard contact, and allowed only a .244 BABIP. But his strikeout rate plummeted to a career-worst 4.62 K/9 and he could manage only a 4.62 ERA and uninspiring marks of 100 FIP- and a 120 DRA-.
Surprisingly, however, Morin still generated a healthy 11.5% swinging-strike rate and induced swings on 38.3% of his pitches outside the strike zone, a career-best. His average fastball velocity of 91.8 MPH was right in line with where it’s been since the start of 2016. He did make a drastic change to his pitch mix, however, largely swapping out his four-seamer for sinkers. He had hardly thrown the pitch in game action prior to 2019, but began turning to it at a 33.5% clip, including nearly 60% of the time he was ahead of batters. Clearly, Morin chose to trade strikeouts for a pitch-to-contact approach.
It will be interesting to see if Morin continues with this mindset or if the Brewers re-align his arsenal and pitch sequencing to take advantage of his ability to miss bats (12.6% career swinging-strike rate). He earns a non-roster invite to big league camp in Maryvale before he likely begins the season as part of the bullpen in San Antonio. Morin is out of minor league options.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Baseball Prospectus, and Brooks Baseball