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Fantasy Baseball Breakout Potential: Brandon Morrow Is More Than a Source of K

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Fantasy Baseball Breakout Potential: Brandon Morrow Is More Than a Source of K
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Brandon Morrow is a name we have all heard about in recent years. Whether it was the potential of being a lights-out closer in Seattle early in his career or a blow-away strikeout pitcher in Toronto, there has always been intrigue surrounding him from a fantasy perspective.

While the Mariners started his transition back to the rotation, the Toronto Blue Jays have given Morrow his true opportunity to shine in the role. He has exclusively been a starting pitcher since joining the team prior to the 2010 season, so should fantasy owners be prepared to reap the benefits of their patience?

Before we get started, let's take a look at what he accomplished in his second full season as a starting pitcher:

 

  • 11 wins
  • 179.1 innings
  • 4.72 ERA
  • 1.29 WHIP
  • 203 strikeouts (10.19 K/9)
  • 69 walks (3.46 BB/9)
  • .299 BABIP

 

The 27-year-old has struck out 381 batters in 325.1 innings over the past two seasons, so there should be no doubt about his ability to generate swings and misses. Armed with a fastball that has averaged more than 93 mph the past two seasons, he will help to buoy fantasy owners in this regard.

The question is, can he help teams in other categories?

Morrow showed improving control last season after posting a 4.46 BB/9 over his minor league career (and a 4.06 mark in 2010). He actually was consistent all year long, so it's hard to call it unsustainable.  Just look at the numbers over the final four months of the year:

 

  • June (31.0 IP): 3.19
  • July (37.0 IP): 3.16
  • August (30.2 IP): 3.23
  • September (36.2 IP): 3.68

So, we know we have elite strikeout stuff and improving control—what exactly is there not to like about Morrow? 

Sure, if you look at the numbers on the surface, the ERA would be more than enough to scare off owners. However, we can easily point to last year’s 65.5 percent strand rate as the culprit. If he had posted even just a league-average mark in that regard, the ERA would've been under 4.00.

Yes, there is concern regarding pitching in the difficult AL East. While he may have handled the Yankees in 2011 (1.74 ERA over 20.2 IP), the opposite can be said about the Red Sox (12.32 ERA over 19.0 IP). Can we expect those numbers to continue? It's impossible to predict any pitcher to dominate the Yankees like that every single season, though will the Red Sox really be able to shell him again.

However, while the consistent matchups are reason to downgrade him slightly, they are not enough to completely write him off. Many pitchers have proven that they can not only pitch well in the AL East but that they can perform with the elite in the game. If you don't want to use CC Sabathia as an example since he plays for the Yankees, how about Jon Lester or David Price? Both should enter 2012 considered among the top 15 starting pitchers in the league.

In other words, to think Morrow can't take the next step due to the division he pitches in would be a drastic mistake. Maybe he's not on the level of those elite pitchers, but there is reason to think he can thrive.

As we enter 2012, we no longer have to worry about an innings limit. Seeing Morrow throw more than 200 innings will be likely, and that will almost certainly mean another 200-plus strikeout campaign. If he can simply replicate last year's control with that, his numbers are going to be impressive.

Obviously he is not going to be an early-round pick, but if you can get Morrow as a pitcher to fill out your rotation (according to Mock Draft Central, his ADP is 181.62). He's a player I will certainly be targeting in all formats, and I would recommend you doing the same.

What are your thoughts on Morrow? Is he a player you would be willing to draft? Why or why not?

Make sure to check out our 2012 projections:

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