Francisco Morales was signed as an international free agent out of Venezuela in 2016. Despite the interrupted 2020 season, the large-bodied right-hander ascended up the organization and was added to the 40-man roster prior to 2021. He spent the majority of that year as a starter at Reading to mixed results - mostly due to walking too many batters.
For 2022, the team had him return to Reading, but he would be working exclusively in relief. The switch to the bullpen seemed to agree with him, and he got off to an excellent start. When the Phillies found themselves short a reliever in May, Morales got the call. He made two appearances and earned a save against the Dodgers in the second.
He returned to the minors after that, but this time at AAA Lehigh Valley. Unfortunately, he continued to walk a high number of batters, and the organization thought he would be better served working on his control at AA.
In August, the Phillies once again had need of an additional reliever, but after one (shaky) appearance, he was sent back to Lehigh Valley where he finished the season.
The stats: 3 games, 5 IP, 0-0 W-L, 1 save, 7.20 ERA, 8.71 FIP, 5.4 K/9, 10.8 BB/9, -0.1 WAR
Morales made his major league debut and even earned a save. For a 22-year-old pitcher, that’s an impressive accomplishment. Despite not being able to stick at the majors or even AAA, the team still likes his arm and thinks he can develop into a viable late-inning reliever.
It was unrealistic to think Morales would stick at the major league level, but it is disappointing that he didn’t succeed at AAA. His control issues are holding him back, as he walked 12.2 batters per nine innings while at AAA.
Morales will likely be in the big-league camp this Spring with an outside chance to win a job on the major league team. It seems more likely he’ll start the season at AAA where he’ll hopefully be more consistent than last year. Even if he does start in the minors, barring a collapse, he’ll inevitably find himself in Philadelphia at some point, and will hopefully become a reliable option out of the bullpen.
He flashed both good and bad in his short time at the major league level, and hopefully the save he earned isn’t his last.