MLB Draft Preview: C Justin Morris

Justin Morris – C

Ht: 6’2″        Wt: 215        Year: Jr.        Bats/Throws: L/R

Hometown (HS): Edgewater, Md. (DeMatha Catholic HS)

2017 Stats

G: 38 (31 GS)    AB: 90     Slash Line: .211/.290/.389     HR: 5     RBI: 13        K-Rate: 26.9%        BB-Rate: 9.6 %

Previously Drafted: 2015 – 35th Round, 1050th Overall – Arizona Diamondbacks

Background: Entering his freshman season with the Terps in 2015, Justin Morris was ranked the third best player in Maryland by Perfect Game USA. The Edgewater, Maryland, native started 27 games his freshman year between first base, catcher and DH, but struggled to hit, batting just .133. With the departure of Kevin Martir after the 2015 season, Morris secured his spot as a mainstay in the catching rotation as a sophomore, starting 34 games and throwing out 38 percent of runners from behind the plate. He improved his average to .194, but still struggled at the plate.

Junior catcher Justin Morris prepares to catch a pitch. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

The following summer, in 2016, Morris demonstrated his offensive potential with the Ripken League’s Bethesda Big Train. In 35 games, he hit .287 with 10 doubles, 25 RBIs and a league-leading four triples. Coming off a breakout summer season, Morris started the 2017 season as part of a three-man catching rotation with Danny Maynard and Nick Cieri. He again struggled to hit early in the season, earning much of his playing time due to the fact he was the best defensive catcher of the three. Late in the season, however, he solidified himself as the starting catcher, and with every day playing time, his bat came around. In 14 games after he was named starting catcher, he hit .267 with three homers and nine RBIs, including a .353 mark in five Big Ten Tournament contests.

After the 2017 regular season, Maryland hitting coach Rob Vaughn praised Morris’s drive to compete and develop as a player.

“Justin has been unbelievable. He had a tough start to the year… but he kept working and when his number is called he’s been unbelievable.”

Outlook: Throughout his time in College Park, Morris established himself as a premier defensive catcher, both in his ability to limit the running game and block behind the plate, but for the most part could not find a consistent rhythm at the plate.

Junior Justin Morris watches the ball go out of the park for a home run. (Hannah Evans/Maryland Baseball Network)

He seemed to figure things out at the dish late in his junior season though. The lefty-swinging Morris has always been pull happy, which can limit him, especially when he hits the ball on the ground, and his high strikeout rate can be worrisome. However, if he cuts down on the whiffs and hits the ball in the air more, as he did throughout postseason play, he can provide solid offensive punch.

For now, Morris’s value relies more on his defense, but his timely hitting and power should not go unnoticed. His combination of solid blocking behind the plate, his ability to throw out base runners and his power from the left side is something that scouts will like to see from the catcher position. If teams look at the offensive spark he provided as an every day player late in the season, Morris will be a solid middle to late round pick in the upcoming draft.