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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

5/8/22 : Opening Eyes 👀

In between writing the minor league roundups, extended spring reports and weekly and monthly standouts I thought I’d intersperse a few player spotlights 😎 - perhaps some fellas you haven’t heard much about. Today I thought I’d spotlight a few relief pitchers that have gotten off to great starts this season.

LHP Jonathan Hennigan : 27 years old - 2016 21st round draft selection - Texas State University

Was kept in Clearwater in early April with the big club for spring training when minor league camp broke to pitch in the last week of Grapefruit League games. He threw really well on April 3rd against the Tigers. After big league camp broke Jonathan was assigned to the AAA level Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs on April 7th.

He’s excelled thus far at Lehigh Valley - in his last six appearances has tossed fourteen scoreless frames allowing just six hits and four walks while striking out thirteen batters including two appearances this week ( 5 IP ). Now has a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 IP overall.

Featuring a Sinker ( 92-94 mph ), Slider ( 80-81 mph ) and Changeup/Splitter ( 83 mph ) his pitches have a great deal of movement and spin - prior issues have been command but this season thus far that’s been harnessed. Trusting the stuff to work and the ball to move with a focus on getting deliveries over the plate rather than pitching to outer spots has been very successful. It’s a mindset of confidence and acceptance that the stuff plays that has translated to both consistency and success.

Jonathan has big league skills, continued confidence, command and control might just earn him a shot to prove that he can perform at the highest level.

Jonathan Hennigan - photo by Cheryl Pursell

RHP Mark Appel : 30 years old - trade acquisition from Astros 12/12/15 - retired 4/5/18 but returned to active play 4/3/21

Has posted a 1.88 ERA for Lehigh Valley in seven appearances ( all in relief ) totaling 14 1/3 innings with 11 K’s and 4 walks. On May 6th he pitched three perfect innings and struck out four batters and lit up the radar at 97 mph with the heater. Generally he’s been in the mid nineties with his two seam heavy fastball this season and uses a slider and changeup as secondaries. He’s pitched multiple innings in six of his seven outings and has a 7 1/3 inning scoreless streak going.

Mark started the 2021 season with Reading and finished with Lehigh Valley - pitched in 23 games ( 71 1/3 IP ) and while velocity was consistently in mid nineties command and control were issues ( 6.18 BB/9 ). At season’s end he had moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. Thus far this year he’s been in command and using a power arsenal to succeed. If that keeps up perhaps the long anticipated major league debut is on the horizon.

Mark Appel - photo by Cheryl Pursell

RH Francisco Morales : 22 years old - signed as an international free agent - 7/2/16 - San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela

Has flat out dominated this season after moving to a bullpen role from previously developing as a starter. He has utilized two plus power pitches - a mid to upper nineties fastball and a wipeout slider. He gets so much movement and break on the slider that I’ve seen batters swing on deliveries far outside the zone that they perceived to be over the dish. We’ve seen that pitch from Francisco from his initial arrival on the backfields in 2017.

This year in nine appearances for AA Reading he’s posted a 0.55 ERA in 16 1/3 IP with a whopping 28 strikeouts and just six walks. His WHIP is 0.73 and he’s held batters to a .113 batting average.

Francisco is a powerfully built young man, his prior development needs were maintaining his delivery and release point for consistent command as the stuff certainly plays. This season he’s found the ability to stay square to the plate and the success has been off the charts. It’s earned him his first big league call up for today’s doubleheader against the Mets. He can be a big piece of the puzzle for the Phillies in the show.

Francisco Morales - photo by George Youngs Jr

Earlier this week I wrote about RHP Matt Seelinger - here’s a link to that article -

Four relievers who are opening eyes of observers in the early going 🤔🤓.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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