Charlie Morton went from an afterthought for the first several years of his career to one of the better pitchers the last two years with the Houston Astros. Going into 2017, Morton was 46-71 with a 4.54 ERA and 630 strikeouts over 893 innings. Over the last two seasons with the Astros, Morton went 29-10 with a 3.36 ERA and 364 strikeouts in 313.2 innings over 55 starts.
Morton was signed by the Rays to a two-year, $30 million contract. Can Morton keep his surge going with a new team?
While the Astros played a big part in turning Morton around, there were signs something was different in his brief stint with the Phillies in 2016 when the velocity on his fastball jumped to 94 miles per hour. He made four starts before tearing a hamstring, ending his season.
The last two seasons, Morton averaged 95 miles per hour with his fastball. Morton was one of 18 pitchers to reach at least 200 strikeouts last season. Of all the pitchers that reached 200, Morton threw the fewest innings.
The concern for Morton is he just turned 35 and a sore right shoulder bothered him in the second half. In the first half, Morton had a 2.96 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 112.1 innings. He wasn’t bad in the second half, but he slowed down with a 3.46 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. A strand rate of 79.6 percent is higher than usual and helped Morton leave more runners stranded than most pitchers. His strand rate of 73 percent in 2017 is more normal, meaning Morton could allow some more runs in 2019.
Morton went 15-3 with a 3.13 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and a 201:64 K:BB ratio in 167 innings. He threw 146.1 innings in 2017. While the increased velocity on his fastball with the Astros helped, Morton had success with a good curve and he had an 11.9 percent swinging strike rate.
While moving to the Rays and the American League East isn’t ideal, it’s not as bad as one would think. The Rays won 90 games and always seem to compete. Morton won’t repeat last season’s numbers, but he can come close. He will pitch for an offense that isn’t as good, which could shave a few wins off, but he has the skills to be a good Fantasy pitcher if the shoulder is fine.
If you draft Morton, it’s difficult to project more than 150-160 innings based on his career and the lack of durability. The Rays might be more prone to pulling him out of games earlier, too.
Morton has an ADP of 108.21 and is the 29th starting pitcher off the board on fantrax.com. There are a few pitchers going after him that I prefer, but Morton is fine as a SP3. The game has changed and the pitchers projected to go at least 200 innings usually go in the first few rounds. Even if Morton throws 150-160 innings, they can be really good innings if he’s healthy.