Meet and Greet: Juan Morillo

Today the Twins designated Phillip Humber for assignment and claimed Juan Morillo off waivers from the Colorado Rockies.

Who is Juan Morillo?

Juan is a 25-year old righty from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, who was signed by the Rockies in 2001 as a 17 year old. He is a flamethrower. His main weapon is his fastball, that averages in the high 90s and occasionally hits triple digits. He has a 89-90 mph slider and a 88-89 mph "change up". His control has been a work in progress, and has been his biggest downfall. Additionally, lack of movement in his fastball has been pointed out. Thus the earlier comparison to Rick "wild thing" Vaughn from the movie "Major League".

Can Juan Morillo help the Twins?

Let's examine the facts:
His career minor league numbers are: 6 seasons, 183 games, 83 GS, 543 IP, 520 H, 262 ER, 326 BB, 519 K, which translate to 4.34 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 5.4 BB/9, 8.6 K/9 and 1.59 K/BB. He made the transition to a reliever in 2007. Also, from those 188 games, he spent 59 games in the Pacific Coast League with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (AAA). If we exclude his PCL games, and look at his numbers, they become 3.5 BB/9, 8.54 K/9, 2.43 K/BB, which is more palatable. In addition he held opponents to an encouraging .246 batting average (lefties: .247, righties:.246.) In his last season away from the PCL, 2007, when he pitched for the Tulsa Drillers of the Texas League (AA), he held lefties to a .161 and righties to a .248 batting average. Furthermore, in parts of 3 major leagues seasons he faced 44 batters of which he walked 4 and struck out 7. Another positive sign is that batters do not hit home runs easily off him. In 536 IP he allowed 32 home runs in the minors.

At some point, Colorado organizational scouts had ranked him higher than Ubaldo Jimenez when they were both with the Modesto Nuts (California League, A+), in 2005. Here is what a Rockies' scout had to say about Juan Morillo then:

I thought the emphasis on patience practiced in Midland would hurt Morillo, but his command looked much improved from the first time I saw him this season. It's hard to tell if his fastball moves because I could hardly pick it up through the black net. His fastball and the Midland starter's fastball were like night and day, and few hitters could get around to pulling the ball on Juan. Produced tons of weak liners, soft grounders and high pop ups. Only three balls put in play appeared to get hit squarely. Fastball was outstanding, but slider came and went. I liked that he pitched more for contact and went after hitters, because even a 99 mph-er down the middle is rarely struck well. Very promising start. He still has needs work, but he's a legit top ten organizational talent, and should reach the bigs and contribute in some fashion.

Will Morillo turn into a top notch set-up guy overnight? It is unlikely, but he is still 25 and if used appropriately he might surprise. He will be removed from the thin air of Colorado and the Pacific coast league, which does not allow a slider to break as it should. He will be moving to a league that no batter has faced him before. If he throws strikes and is able to get his slider over the plate, he will be a good addition to the club. A high reward, low risk situation, which shows that Smith is not afraid to do moves that help the club. It would be great, if Morillo turns out like the last pitcher Bill Smith picked out of the waiver wire: Craig Breslow.

Like Phillip Humber, Juan Morillo is out of options and has to stay in the Twins 25-man roster all season or be exposed to waivers. Morillo was assigned uniform number 31. The last pitcher who wore 31 was J.D. "The Real Deal" Durbin. Let's hope that Morillo performs closer to the first pitcher who wore number 31 for the Twins, Jim Perry.


Marv said...

Nice write up on the guy.
Amazingly wild, but they must think they can do something with him.

Too bad about Humber, but I'm sure someone will pick him up & he'll get some more chances.

I am liking Bill Smith more and more. Even if not all his efforts pan out at least he's trying some things.

thrylos98 said...


I like Smith. And I think that if he somehow gets the old school Ryan-types out of there and modernizes the front office, it will be even better for the Twins. Humber will probably be in a major league pen next week and in a rotation by the end of the season. He needs a chance.

I hope we get to see Morillo soon. He has tremendous upside. I hope his problems were due to the thin air he was pitching at.

Anonymous said...

Morillo pitched this evening as the Twins pounded the Angels. For someone who supposedly has trouble throwing strikes, looked to me like he was throwing hard across the inside corner for strikes. He may have even hit the outside corner, too.


thrylos98 said...

He was great! I would not mind him pitch like this at every outing. I think that he made the Twins forget about Humber. It has been a long time since the Twins had a fireballer in their pen and this guy has tremendous upside.

Anonymous said...


I can see it now, Morillo is this year's Juan Berenguer.

All kidding aside, I see Anderson said Morillo is a project.

Somehow, I find it hard to believe Morillo is that much of a project, due to the fact he is part of the 25 man roster. You don't tie up a spot on the roster and then not use it.

I'm sure the Twins will bring him along slowly, but, at some point, they will be forced to use him in a tight situation.


thrylos98 said...

I agree with that. There are "projects" and "projects". Santana was a "project" his first year. That said, I think that Morillo might have confidence issues and it might pay big if they use him in low leverage situations for a month or so to gain confidence. That said, he has a very high upside. Joel Zumaya is a guy he has been compared to.