This time of year, Panama City, Florida becomes a hot spot for Spring Breakers throughout the Southeast United States. Panama City boasts beautiful beaches, superb sunsets, and plenty of bars that don’t care to ID their patrons. I am not trying to get any bar owners in trouble by writing this post, however.
One thing that Panama City is definitely not known for is its quality of baseball. Pick any school in Florida, and you are bound to find some good baseball being played. The top baseball schools include University of Florida, University of Miami, Florida State University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Tampa, Florida Southern, Chipola College…need I go on? Pretty much pick a school in the state of Florida, and you are bound to see at least one future Major/Minor leaguer on the field. Even Florida Gulf Coast has a kid (Chris Sale), who is projected to be a first-rounder this year. Chris Sale is a monster on the mound, and he deserves to be taken in the 1st, but I also think that there is a gem hidden in Panama City, the destination for Spring Breakers, who also has first-round potential. Cross off the word “Florida” in Chris Sale’s school’s name and you will find the smaller Gulf Coast Community College, where a kid named Andrew Morris is pitching his heart out.
Gulf Coast Community College has to thank Morris, because he is a huge factor in why the school is ranked #7 in the nation according to March 3rd’s National Junior College Athletic Association Top 25 Poll. Last year, Morris was an Honorable Mention All American and named Panhandle Conference Pitcher of the Year. My guess is that this year, Morris will be a 1st Team All American and possibly win ABCA Player of the Year.
What is so special about the 6’3, 190lbs right-handed pitching Sophomore out of Prattville, Alabama? In his Freshman year at Gulf Coast, he went 10-2 with a 2.77 ERA. He had more strikeouts than innings pitched, fanning 107 batters in 94 innings. His strikeout total was more than double his number of walks (42). And he only gave up 65 hits on the season. In 14 appearances as a Freshman, six were complete games and one was a shutout in 14 appearances. On April 21, 2009 Morris was named the FCCAA Pitcher of the Week after tossing a complete-game, 12 strikeout, two-hitter in a win over then-No. 9 Northwest Florida. Morris showed up to play whether he was facing a better or weaker team.
After a strong Freshman year campaign, Andrew Morris was drafted in the 44th round by the Milwaukee Brewers. Looking at his performance in 2009, you may ask why he slipped so far in the draft. My assumption is that it was an instance where a player could have been picked in the top 4-8 rounds, but thought that he was not being properly valued and ended up slipping in the draft. Anyway, Morris went out to play Summer Ball with the Slippery Rock Sliders of the Collegiate Wood-Bat Prospect League. Morris picked up where he left off with Gulf Coast. Once again, he struck out more batters (86) than the amount of innings he pitched (76). A whopping 4 of the 12 games he started were complete games, and he added another shutout to his achievements. His ERA was 2.25, and check out the opponents’ batting average against him – .182! Not surprisingly, Morris was named an All-Star.
Now Andrew Morris is back at Gulf Coast for his final year with the team, but has already committed to Auburn, should he not sign with a professional team after this year. The way Morris is pitching, I would think that he will jump to being taken in the top 5 rounds and get the money he deserves. I see him as a first rounder, but that’s just my opinion. Andrew Morris’ numbers in his Sophomore campaign are just ridiculous. As of March 5, he has seen action in 6 games. 4 of those games were complete games, and 2 of them were shutouts. He has 5 wins in those 6 games. Morris’ ERA is 1.51 and opponents are only batting .160 against him. His strikeout/walk ratio has improved, as well (58/19). And the strikeouts are WELL above innings pitched, once again.
Can you tell that I am a fan of Morris? I am one of the few who have been tracking Gulf Coast while others ignore the school for Panama City’s beautiful beaches. Morris’ coach as Gulf Coast had this to say about him – “A coach’s dream, super talent combined with an unbelievable work ethic.” Can’t beat that. And Conor Glassey of BaseballAmerica.com wrote this about Morris on February 16, 2010 – “He throws in the 88-92 mph range and also has a good splitter and a big curveball with a lot of depth.”
One thing I noticed that some scouts may have looked over is that Morris was born on August 5, 1990. He is one of the youngest players in his class at only 19-years-old. I know the Brewers picked him last year, but I’d love to see my Florida Marlins bring him in.