Padres Prospect Report: Colt Morton

Padres Scouting Report: Colt Morton

Colt Morton is slated to be the catcher of choice for the Fort Wayne Wizards this year. A former 3rd round pick in the 2003 Amateur Draft, Morton is still in the process of filling out his 6-6 frame. Morton has already shown power potential, but needs to find consistency at the plate to continue his rise as a prospect in the San Diego padres organization.

Colt Morton, a native of West Palm Beach, Florida, was a first-team All-ACC selection and one of three finalists for the 2003 Johnny Bench Award, presented annually to college baseball's best catcher.

Morton led the NC State Wolfpack offensively with 19 home runs and 54 RBIs in 2003. Overall, Morton, 21, batted .262 (174-for-663) with 35 doubles, two triples, 44 homers and 139 RBI in 175 games over three seasons with the Wolfpack. He ranks fourth all-time among NC State leaders in home runs, 19 of which came in 2003, the eighth-best single-season mark in school history.

Morton is widely known for his defensive work behind the plate, and he has a cannon for an arm. But his biggest asset comes via his leadership. His spiritual faith has inspired many to take up his call. His strong beliefs have led to him being a true role model on and off the field.

"Forget baseball for a second, Morton is just a solid citizen that will prove his worth in the dugout," said one Padres scout. "He will do well with his strong virtues. His baseball potential ain't half bad either."

"He was a guy that after he was drafted this year went to Eugene and did really well," Terry Byrom said. "He came here and was just overmatched. Nothing bad about him, just one of those situations where he got into a situation where the pitching was a little better than he saw in Eugene and guys figured out how to get him out quickly."

Part of Morton's contract stated he had to go to a long season club after starting the year in Eugene. It also might have cost the Emeralds a shot at postseason play. They were in first place when Morton left the squad in late July. After hitting .278 in Eugene, Morton's stats dropped to .171 in 22 games at Fort Wayne.

Morton played in 25 games for Eugene and showed the pop that got him drafted in the third round. Almost half of his hits went for extra bases (13-of-27) and he knocked in 20. The biggest problem he faced was putting the ball in play. Morton struck out 29 times in Eugene, compared to just ten walks.

When he made the transition to Fort Wayne, his strikeout numbers were compounded. Morton struck out 28 times and walked just five times. For a big time power hitter, Morton will need to post better than a 5.6:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Morton was striking out once every 2,71 times he came to the plate in Fort Wayne and may have been better served, contract notwithstanding, continuing his play in Eugene for the year. In Eugene his strikeout ratio was slightly better at once every 3.34 at bats.

This season his confidence will be the biggest thing to watch. Morton will be 22 when the season commences and as a catcher he has a year or two prospects at other positions.

"The ball will be in his court next year in spring training to make some adjustments and I think once those happen, he will be fine," said a Padres scout.

The Padres are working on his swing in order to cut down on strikeouts and make more contact with the ball. Rob Deer will be instrumental in teaching him the errors of his ways and not many know better than Deer who struck out a ton in his Major League career. The idea is to get the bat on the ball and with more contact the home runs will continue to come.

His defense is solid and just needs refining and continued play, which won't be a problem given his durability. His future, however, will tie directly to his plate awareness. It will be a true test of his faith.

"The kid has a lot of pop," said another Padres scout. "Oh yeah!"

Note:

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Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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