Lesser Known Braves Farm Hands: Jonathan Morales

Kicked off by the cleaning-house of all things Wren, namely the firing of Frank and trading of Kyle, fans of the Atlanta Braves have watched intently for each and every transaction made since the fall of 2014. One of the most important moments of the rebuild thus far was the 2015 draft. It set the stage for Atlanta’s new identity. That draft brought in current top prospects Kolby Allard (#4), Mike Soroka (#7), Austin Riley (#15), Lucas Herbert (#23), Patrick Weigel (#26), and A.J. Minter (#27). Obscured by headliners of the 2015 draft is Jonathan Morales, a competitive and productive catcher who could surprise a few who have overlooked him so far.

The Lesser Known Farm Hand: Jonathan Morales

Jonathan Morales, now 21, is from Arroyo, Puerto Rico. He played at Miami Dade College between 2013-2015 before going to the Braves in the 25th round of the 2015 draft. While in his second season at Miami Dade, he hit .389 while showing flashes of power through 47 games. He was named to the First Team All-Southern Conference and was named Southern Conference Player of the Year that season.

He was assigned to the GCL Braves after the draft, and he produced. Morales hit .304 with seven doubles and seven home runs in 46 games. His performance in the Gulf Coast League earned him a promotion to the Single-A Rome Braves to start 2016.

Offensive Production

The numbers that Morales produced in junior college, and now the minor leagues, prove that he is a capable hitter. He holds good knowledge of the zone and doesn’t strike out often. Thanks to an aggressive approach at the plate, there aren’t many walks, either. Mainly due to his strong showing at the rookie level, he began getting attention from the affluent followers. Much of that talk tailed off after his promotion to Single-A.

The disinterest is warranted. Morales put up an entirely mediocre slash line of .269/.313/.356. He’s considered to have a lower ceiling than Herbert. However, the numbers don’t give a full picture of his 2016 performance. He hit very well through April and most of May before a long, sharp downturn. Through 43 games, he held a .299 average with a respectable .337 OBP. Morales’ low point came after an 0-4 performance on July 13, leaving him at .230.

From then on, Morales improved. He eventually climbed back to a .277 average and .326 OBP on August 20. Morales contributed to the Rome Braves fight for the South Atlantic League title. He hit .308 with three doubles in the playoffs, including a 2-4 performance with a double and a run scored in the final game of the title series against the Lakewood BlueClaws.

There exists potential for Morales to be an all-around bat. He’s played in 159 games, collecting 32 doubles and 11 home runs between the GCL and Single-A. While he did only hit four home runs in Single-A, his swing allows for more power. That power is not a natural part of his game, yet he can find it when he stays patient and balanced.

Fielding Contributions

So far, Morales has played exclusively at catcher in the minors, save for two appearances at third base and one in right field. Yet, Morales spent a lot of time at second, third, and short in his two seasons at Miami Dade. He was primarily an infielder in junior college, and was placed at catcher not due to inability elsewhere, but because other players were only valuable in those spots.

Danny Price, his college coach, has previously stated “He’s our best catcher, he’s our best shortstop, he’s our best second baseman, our best third baseman.” What this means is he is athletic and versatile. He’s a ball player who will grind for his team. Morales could play first or third if he doesn’t pan out at catcher. He hasn’t been bad behind the plate, but his play does raise some questions as to his future there.

He allowed eight passed balls and committed five errors in 64 games at catcher in 2016, plus two passed balls and an error in the playoffs. This was an improvement over his 2015 campaign, during which he allowed 11 passed balls and committed an error in just 34 games. Some encouraging signs do present themselves. Morales threw out 53 of 106 would-be base-stealers for a 50% rate. His pitch framing is also improvemed. Patrick Weigel’s attempt at a no-hitter shows Morales has gotten comfortable behind the plate. Weigel praised Morales’ game calling and strategy in a post game interview.


The Braves were very lucky to have been about the only team to notice Jonathan Morales. The scouting department found a kid who can hit and had little wear from time behind the plate, and took him in the 25th round. That kid worked and played and forced his way to an expected 2017 start with Advanced-A Florida Firefrogs.

He may not be among the heralded group of prospects the Braves have collected through high draft position or trade, but he has earned everything given to him. Morales may not ever offer much power, but his swing proves otherwise. He might not be Atlanta’s solution at catcher, yet could force his way into consideration.

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