With the 147th overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft, the Blue Jays selected draft-eligible sophomore Tanner Morris in the 5th round from the University of Virginia. Though he’s played mostly shortstop in college, the consensus is that in pro ball and he’ll have to find a new position, perhaps at second.
Tanner Morris has excellent pure feel for hitting and good wood bat track record. He even brought out the wood bat back in his high school days. Hit tool is the biggest for him, but he has a strong arm. Not a SS at the next level. #MLBDraft #BlueJays— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) June 4, 2019
Similar to their previous pick of Will Robertson, this pick is all about the bat, though more hit tool than power. After hitting .298/.397/.374 as a freshman in 2018 (albeit one who had just turned 20, so more like a sophomore by age), he took that .353/.460/.521 in 291 PA this past year. And that’s in the ACC, which is arguably the second best baseball college baseball conference. Notably, he had excellent plate discipline metrics, with slightly more walks than strikeouts in each year.
Also like Robertson, Morris was a standout for Harwich last summer in the wood bat Cape Cod league, earning an All-Star selection, a rarity for freshman (though again, he was more akin to a sophomore). In 156 PA, he hit .322/.395/.440 with 11 extra base hits (two home runs), and 15 walks against 24 strikeouts. He profiles as more of a pure hitter with doubles power, and if you can hit they’ll find a position for you.
Morris could be a nice value play, as once again the consensus ranking was well ahead of where he was drafted — 100th on the Fangraphs board, 104th on MLB Pipeline’s, 124th on Baseball America’s. He does have some additional leverage with two years of college eligibility remaining, but on the other hand will turn 22 later this year so it makes sense to get into pro ball sooner than later, and accordingly I’d expect his bonus to come in close to slot.
This pick squarely fits with the recent tendency to draft college infielders with a track record of hitting in the middle of the second day. In 2015, the Jays took Cavan Biggio in the 5th round from fellow ACC school Notre Dame. In 2016, it was fellow Virginian Cullen Large in the 5th round. Last year, Nick Podkul in the 7th round, also from Notre Dame. These picks have works out quite well so far, so it’s not surprising to see the trend continue.