Say Hello to your newest Angels; Akeel Morris and Miguel Almonte

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 16: Akeel Morris
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 16: Akeel Morris /

The LA Angels have made some quiet moves this past week, sneakily picking up young pitching talent from both the Royals and the Braves in their acquisitions of Miguel Almonte and Akeel Morris, respectively.

Both players were designated for assignment by their clubs and almost immediately snatched up by the LA Angels. There’s no real way around it, the Angels came away with absolute steals.

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Billy Eppler is at it again, this past week completing trades for Miguel Almonte from the Royals and Akeel Morris from the Braves; both being right handed relievers. This is a fascinating move in many aspects, one being that both athletes are highly talented and projected to hit the MLB very soon, possibly this season. On top of that, Eppler pulled these two away from their previous organizations on cash considerations only.

It’s especially strange to see Miguel Almonte dropped by the Royals so easily given his recent success. He’s struggled in his first few seasons in the minors with command, in 2016 Almonte posted a BB9 of 5.4, overall walking 46 hitters across 76.0 IP, though he did maintain 72 strikeouts. According to scouting reports, he has great ability to miss bats with his fastball/changeup combo.

Almonte’s fastball reaches the 96-98 MPH range and his changeup has a fierce drop-out, almost sliding as it comes across the plate. He’s barely turned 25, and what’s truly encouraging is his 2017 improvements across the board, cleaning up his erratic command and posting a 1.72 ERA across 47 IP throughout the 2017 season. It’s truly encouraging to see Almonte keep his command unified throughout an entire season in the Double and Triple A.

What is really the cherry on top is the legitimacy of his turn to form. In his 2016 season, throughout 76 IP across Double and Triple A, Almonte struggled in nearly every aspect. He allowed 56 runs off 87 hits, though he did allow only 9 HR’s across those 76 IP that season. Throughout everything he maintained a HR/9 rate of 1.1, impressive given his command issues. All in all, he ended that season with a 5.92 ERA, a very unflattering look for a young prospect.

But then it all changed, in 2017 Almonte returned to AA and AAA, shredding everybody throughout the season. In 47 IP, Almonte gave up only 9 runs and 42 hits; a stark contrast to his 2016 journey through the higher developmental leagues. On 52 K’s he walked only 13, and even better was his improved HR/9 rate of 0.6.

Even if you want to inflate his numbers for better contrast purposes the improvements would still show, the smaller sample size of 47 IP in 2017 compared to 76 IP in 2016 is negated when you mathmatically adjust his numbers; across an estimated 70 innings with the pace of Almontes 2017 numbers you would end up with nearly 100 K’s on less than 30 walks.

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Almonte appeared with the Royals in 2017, struggling heavily in 2 games of work. Throughout his 11 MLB appearances he’s collected 10 K’s, and his improvements in Double A and Triple A came after hit rough MLB innings.

So far his improvements with his command look to be real. Almonte dominated in Spring with 9IP of 1 run ball and 8 K’s to only 1 walk. Almonte has been assigned to the Angels Triple A affiliate, and in turn Juan Graterol has been DFA’ed.

Akeel Morris carries a very similar nature to Miguel Almonte in the fact that he also misses bats with his fastball/changeup combo. Morris has had great success throughout his 8 seasons in the minors, and at the age of 25 he’s already had success in the Majors, though limited to 7.1 IP in 2017 in which he posted a 1.23 ERA.

Small sample size, I understand, but that sample displays naturally the transition of his minor league success to the Majors. Morris has dominated throughout the minors; posting ERA’s of 0.63 across 57 IP in 2014, 2.05 across 61.1 IP (1 MLB IP) in 2015, 3.25 in Double A across 61 IP in 2016, and 2.65 in 54.1 IP (7.1 MLB IP) in 2017.

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Morris has great strikeout ability, though again command issues rear it’s ugly head. across all of his minor league levels he’s posted a BB/9 of 4.9, as a reliever that could get ugly fast.

However, it seems he’s learning to get a handle on it; in this recent Spring Training with the Braves, Akeel Morris was a stunner. In 3 games, across 2.1 IP he allowed zero runs and one hit, though he did give up 4 walks and pull only 1 K.

What really baffles me regarding Morris is the short list of reasons why Morris was let go for peanuts. Morris seemed slated to make the team after his 2017 Spring Training of 4 IP of a 2.25, but he didn’t make the team and many felt he was snubbed. Once Morris saw MLB time and pitched an incredible 7.1 innings he seemed a lock for the team again, especially after he put together a top-tier Spring in 2018.

However, Morris was snubbed again; and to add insult to injury he was DFA’ed before the Angels swooped in to save the day. Both Miguel Almonte and Morris had no real reasons to be let go so easily, especially Morris given his practically MLB ready performances. Both of these guys are only 25 years of age and have been getting strong handles on their game of late, especially Almonte. Morris seemed to always be in his zone, but Almontes vast strides in improvement over the last year show massive turnarounds in his gameplay.

Both Miguel Almonte and Akeel Morris are interested cases in their own right, Morris being a guy who’s been getting blocked out of opportunities and Almonte who has found a serious groove that is seeming to stick. Given their young ages it makes it even more head scratching as to why they’d be let go.

Next: Shohei Ohtani and Zack Cozart are making an impact

You will be seeing both of these players in Angels red very soon, and when you do you might be seeing some wonderful things from these very talented young pitchers.

Regarding the trade for Akeel Morris, Troy Scribner has been DFA’ed. The Angels are currently waiting to see if he clears waivers.