In many ways, 2014 was a career best season for Franklin Morales. After all, his previous high for innings pitched at the big league level was 76 1/3, a number he nearly doubled in 2014 - throwing 142 1/3 innings for the Rockies. That represented the second most innings thrown by a Rockies hurler this year. Considering the fact that Morales, acquired in a trade with the Red Sox involving utility infielder Jonathan Herrera this past offseason, was expected to be the long man out of the bullpen this season, that's pretty remarkable.
Franklin's ability to stay in the starting rotation for most of the year became a season-long running joke about the lefty's voodoo magic. Seemingly every time Morales was scheduled to assume his planned spot in the bullpen, a new pitching injury arose and Morales had bought himself another start or two. First it was Jhoulys Chacin out of spring training, then Brett Anderson with a freak broken finger, then Tyler Chatwood with shoulder woes, then Jordan Lyles with a broken non-pitching hand...and so on.
In a season full of pitching injuries, Morales was one of the few pitchers to remain on the active 25 man roster all year (Jorge De La Rosa was the only other starter). It's just unfortunate that the 142 1/3 innings that Morales ate were not very good innings.
Morales started the season off well enough - he threw 30 2/3 innings of 4.40 ERA ball in April - but he was dreadful in May, posting a 7.59 ERA in six starts in that month. Those struggles pushed Morales into his intended long man role in June, where he was serviceable out of the pen until injuries forced his return to the rotation. In July, Morales had his best month on the mound, throwing 20 2/3 innings with a 3.05 ERA. Morales struggled more down the stretch, posting a 7.00 ERA in 18 September innings.
In the end, Morales only did end up throwing 23 2/3 innings of relief, in which he had a 4.94 ERA.
Morales suffered from his signature wildness, though his 4.1 BB/9 was one of the best marks in his big league career, while not striking out a whole lot of hitters. That's a recipe for disaster. Interestingly, Morales was more effective at Coors Field (4.92 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) than he was on the road (5.88 ERA, 1.68 WHIP), but he really wasn't too effective anywhere.
What Morales was to the 2014 Rockies was an innings eater, a pitcher to fill in the injury gaps with below replacement level innings. Morales taxed the bullpen severely in 2014: in his 22 starts, Morales completed the 6th inning only 10 times. Morales was there when you called him, and he even provided eight quality starts to Colorado. In the end though, if the Rockies are going to be playoff contenders, they'll need a much higher quality of innings thrown than the ones they got from Morales this year.
2014 Grade: D
Morales didn't give the Rockies what they expected when they traded for him. They were expecting a quality long man and instead got a below replacement starter, albeit a healthy one.
Morales is a free agent this off-season, and I don't expect the Rockies to bring him back. There are still enough glimpses of an effective major league pitcher in Morales to entice a team to put him on their roster, but I'm not on board with that team being the Rockies.