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Friday, June 29, 2012

Franklin Morales: Potential Ace The Red Sox Lack?

BOSTON, MA - JUNE 23:  Franklin Morales #46 of...
In three starts this season, Franklin Morales has flashed the "Ace" potential the Rockies envisioned when they brought him up in '07. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
At the moment, the Red Sox do not have one starter that can definitively be called an "ace". Normally, instincts would tell you that Jon Lester is that guy, or maybe Josh Beckett. This season, not even the most naive fan can call either of those guys a legitimate ace. Boston simply does not have a go-to guy in a big game.

Over the last three turns through the rotation, Franklin Morales can easily be called that guy. He's been better than the number one starter, he's been better than anyone else in the rotation since making his first start since '09 in the place of injured Josh Beckett. Morales has no doubt earned a further look in a starting role. Can the Red Sox cash in on a possible mistake made by the Colorado Rockies? Does Franklin Morales have ace potential?

Would it surprise anybody if the Rockies made a pitching mistake? They did recently propose their plan to utilize an "11-man rotation" where everybody on the staff will start and relieve. Maybe it's not fair to pick at the Rox but isn't there a chance they gave up too soon on a power lefty that is just 26 years old right now?

When Morales came up, Colorado had big plans for the southpaw and in the short-term, he paid dividends as a starter during the 2007 season in which the team made it to the World Series. You may remember it, he pitched twice in relief against the Red Sox.

During that season, Morales started eight games with a 3-2 record, 3.43 ERA, 1.86 K/BB, 1.22 WHIP in 39 1/3 IP.

Things didn't start out well for Morales, who was just 21 at the time. In his first month at the major league level, he finished with a 4.40 ERA in 14 1/3 IP. The next month, September, was when the young lefty showed his potential.

After a rough first start in September, Morales made three straight scoreless starts, 17 innings total without allowing an earned run. He allowed just 7 hits in those three outings. The playoffs didn't go well, but the Rockies saw enough in the regular season to give him a starting job starting the '08 season.

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 28:  Starting pitcher Frank...
Franklin Morales pitching against the Mariners in a game he was out-dueled by Felix Hernandez but threw 7 scoreless innings with 7 K's.  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
After a rough start in '10, Morales was optioned to AAA having made just five starts with a 6.39 ERA. He was given two more starts in '09 before being relegated to bullpen duty, where he remained until Bobby Valentine gave him a start this season.

The horrible 2010 season out of the bullpen led to the Rockies looking for a trade in the beginning of last season. The Red Sox, needing a lefty reliever, took a chance on the still very young pitcher and it paid off quite well. He made 36 appearances with a 3.62 ERA out of the Sox bullpen.

The most prevalent issue Morales had while with the Rockies was command. Since coming to Boston, he has steadily improved to a very good 4/1 K/BB ratio and 9.5 K/9 in 41 2/3 IP this season. That's where the success stems from. He's doing everything for the Red Sox that Colorado had envisioned for him.

There's a chance that Morales could unravel and go back to the issues that plagued him in the Mile High City, but the sample size suggests that he has just plain improved his control and it's not just a streak.

After coming up to the Red Sox from AAA last season, Morales posted a respectable 2.82 K/BB and 8.5 K/9 in 32 1/3 IP. It's improved this season to the numbers above and the sample size is larger.

It's too soon to say that Morales is an ace-type pitcher and not just pitching like one, but there is a chance we're seeing what he was expected to be. At 26, it's very possible that he's finally come into his own and learned to pitch instead of "throw". There's never been a question with the stuff. The stuff is there and if the command stays with it, he can be that ace caliber pitcher that the Red Sox have lacked the last couple seasons.

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