Thursday, March 6, 2014

Is Brandon Morrow the Next Dustin McGowan?


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Stop me if you've heard this one before - a young right-handed pitcher with electric stuff has a potential to be a Cy Young award-winner.

Sound familiar?

There's a reason why you may be experiencing deja vu; it's because Brandon Morrow and Dustin McGowan may be on a similar career path.

I don't know what exactly lead me to that connection, but it probably had something to do with Brandon Morrow's forgettable start yesterday in Spring Training action. For whatever reason, I was getting flashbacks to Dustin McGowan starts. 

Morrow may have been lit up for five runs in his Spring Training appearance yesterday, but the fact that he didn't leave the game with arm discomfort should be considered progress. If Brandon Morrow exits the game with his arm intact, it's a small victory. 

I hate to say it, but Brandon Morrow is just one more injury-plagued season away from becoming the ultimate "what if" in Blue Jays history, not unlike his teammate Dustin McGowan.

There was a time when Dustin McGowan was a highly regarded starting pitcher. Even Gregg Zaun was convinced McGowan had the stuff to be a Cy Young Award winner. But as we all know, injuries took their toll on Dustin McGowan.

The fact that he's even pitching in the Majors again is nothing short of a miracle, but it's a far departure from when Dustin McGowan was a mainstay in the Blue Jays starting rotation back in 2007 and 2008.

My fear is that the same thing that's happened to Dustin McGowan will happen to Brandon Morrow; that a laundry list of injuries will hamper what could very well have been a successful career.

I don't want to say 2014 is the last chance for Brandon Morrow, but in many ways it is. The Blue Jays hold a $10 million dollar club option on him for 2015, but if he goes down to injury again, what's the sense in going through that process again?

Interestingly enough, the Blue Jays also have a club option on Dustin McGowan for 2015 as well, although the likelihood of that one being picked up are much less likely than Brandon Morrow's.

Admittedly, this is a very cynical outlook when it comes to both Morrow and McGowan, but that's almost the approach that needs to be taken with players with a substantial history of injuries.

Odds are Brandon Morrow will be a better than average starting pitcher this year and Dustin McGowan will be an okay middle reliever for the Blue Jays. But the caveat with these guys is always "if they can stay healthy".

Perhaps the past few years have just made me bearish as opposed to bullish on pitchers with checkered pasts like Brandon Morrow. He certainly has all the talent in the world, but if he can't stay healthy and log over 200 innings a season, it's almost all for nothing.

Had the Blue Jays not committed to being a contender over the next few years, they'd have the luxury of time with Brandon Morrow to see if he could develop into that powerhouse pitcher everyone is hoping he will eventually become.

When it comes to Brandon Morrow, I think things have reached a boiling point because the Blue Jays can't afford to have him not do well right now. The window of contention is closing for the team, which has intensified expectations on internal guys like Brandon Morrow.

And because the Blue Jays didn't go out and get reinforcements for the starting rotation this offseason, that forces a lot of undue pressure on Morrow this year.

If things go sideways for the team this year and Brandon Morrow doesn't contribute, many will look to him as a reason why the Blue Jays didn't make the playoffs.

The main thing with Brandon Morrow and even Dustin McGowan is the Blue Jays organization has invested so much time and money into these players, that they just want some sort of payoff.

But at the same time, they're like the proverbial carrot that's been dangled in front of our noses. And no one really knows if Morrow and McGowan will break out ... or just break down.

Note: Drew pointed out in an old GROF post that Morrow and McGowan are very similar.

Images courtesy of CBC and The Score

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