After three straight trips to the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs have retooled their roster as they prepare for the 2018 season.
How He Got Here
As the Cubs said goodbye to Wade Davis, they decided that Brandon Morrow would likely get the first shot at closing out games this season. To acquire him, the Cubs signed him to a two-year free agent contract, with a vesting option for a third season.
What He Did in 2017
Morrow had a renaissance year as part of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ electric bullpen, posting a 2.06 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 44 innings of work. He didn’t allow a single home run all season long, and looked strong against the Cubs in the NLCS.
What Does He Bring to the Table?
While Morrow doesn’t have the pedigree of past Cubs closers like Davis and Aroldis Chapman, he has the pitch arsenal that could make him very difficult to hit. He is primarily a ground-ball pitcher (hence his low home run rate) and his four-seam fastball induces a lot of ground-outs, according to PitchFX data. His cut fastball has the same impact, and he throws both pitches extremely hard.
The cut fastball is also a great strikeout pitch for Morrow, as is his slider. The pitch moves a lot as it approaches the plate, and the quick dives that it takes on its flight path make it an extremely difficult pitch to hit.
As a result, Morrow was a highly-sought commodity by the Cubs, and they paid him significantly less than the $52 million that the Colorado Rockies dished out for Davis in free agency.
Our Prediction for 2018
Davis went almost the entire season without blowing a save, and while Morrow likely won’t be able to touch that kind of performance, we would anticipate that he’ll come in and do a solid job as the team’s closer if he’s able to win the job outright out of camp.
Having guys like Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. around him will definitely help the bullpen out, and if Justin Wilson is able to sort out the issues that he’s been dealing with since he arrived in Chicago, then Morrow is probably going to get the ball a lot in straight up save situations.