Q&A with Yankees 9th round pick Taylor Morton

We sat down with Yankees' 9th round pick, Taylor Morton, for a Post-Draft Q&A session. Find out what the right-handed pitcher from Bartlett HS in Tennessee feels about potentially playing for the Yankees, why his velocity fluctuated this season, his maximum pitch count in a game, and more!

Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like when you heard that you had been selected by the Yankees?

Taylor Morton: I had gone to Tampa for a workout three days before the draft and did really well. After that I spoke to my area scout so I had a good idea that they could take me, and after that workout they showed the most interest. It was getting kind of late into the draft – I thought I was going to go a little earlier – so I was a little frustrated, but when the Yankees took me everything just stopped. I was so happy and it was just crazy inside my house; everybody was so excited. I'm excited to get down there and get started if they decide to sign me.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much earlier had you heard that you might go?

Taylor Morton: I'm not totally sure, but I talked with other teams and when we discussed my signability they didn't have a problem with it. Every kid always has the highest expectations for himself, at least I know I do, and I had thrown really well. There were teams that liked me and kind of gave me the feel that I could go earlier, but after the Yankees took me it really didn't matter. It was such a great phonecall to get and I really didn't care that I went in the 9th round after that.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What was that workout experience prior to the draft like? What specifically did you do?

Taylor Morton: When I got there I sat in the clubhouse for about an hour and got to talk to some of the guys. Then there was actually an extended spring training game against the Blue Jays and I got to pitch two innings in that game. I think I struck out four, walked one, and gave up one hit, so I did really well.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Where were you on the gun?

Taylor Morton: 90-92 MPH, I think.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Being from Tennessee, do you know Corban Joseph?

Taylor Morton: Yeah, I think he's three years older than me, and I played against him my freshman year in the state tournament. I was talking about him with [Yankees area scout] DJ recently, and he's going to be a big-leaguer; he's good.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are your height and weight still 6'3", 195 lbs?

Taylor Morton: I'm actually 205 lbs now.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Is that due to working out, or just a result of getting older?

Taylor Morton: Yeah, I think it's just maturing. I've worked out, but I think it's just me filling out naturally. Hopefully I can put on some more, so we'll see what happens.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Any nicknames?

Taylor Morton: Yeah, everyone calls me Taymo.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you have any idea of what the Yankees organization and/or farm system is like?

Taylor Morton: Oh yeah. From my understanding they have the best farm system there is, all of the locations are really nice, and the developmental staff is great, so I'm excited.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You were both a pitcher and a hitter in high school, playing catcher, and you'll play two-way at Tennessee if you go there. What are feelings on being a pitcher exclusively if you sign with the Yankees?

Taylor Morton: I'm very cool with it now. This year was the first year in my life that I was a starting pitcher. I threw 46 innings this year, and before then I had just closed. I've caught since I was eight and that's what I love to do – I love to hit – but after last summer I was faced with reality, and reality was that I was going to be a pitcher. I just had to face it, and since the beginning of my senior year I really love to pitch because when you're pitching you control the game. Whatever you do affects what is going to happen in the game, so I love it now. I love taking that control out to the mound with the attitude that I'm just going to dominate the hitters.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did you play any other sports besides baseball?

Taylor Morton: I played football through my sophomore year, and was a tight end and a linebacker. When I stopped playing football was when I was getting good and baseball and saw that I had a chance at my dreams coming true. I love playing football, but I wasn't going to take the risk of getting hurt when I knew that my true love was baseball and that's what I was going to end up doing.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So was it your sophomore year when you realized that you were better than everyone and could actually do something with baseball, or was it earlier?

Taylor Morton: When I was younger my dream was always to be a Major League player, and my favorite player was Ken Griffey, Jr. When I was about five I found out he got drafted out of high school, and back then I didn't know how the draft worked and thought that was really rare; that it was the biggest thing. So since then my goal was always to get drafted out of high school and go to the Major leagues. When I was about 12 I was throwing so much harder than the other kids and was more physically mature, and that was when I first felt like I could really get drafted. In high school I started getting invited to showcases and stuff, and that was when it was really time to go to work because I could really do this.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you give us a detailed description of your arsenal?

Taylor Morton: I throw a fastball, a changeup, and a slider. My fastball has been up to 96 MPH, but consistently it's in the 90-92, 93 MPH range. My changeup is my favorite pitch, and it took me about three years to get a feel for it. Ever since I was a kid all my coaches have instilled in me that a changeup is a good pitch to have and puts less stress on your arm, so when I got to high school I really started to work with it. It's a circle changeup that dives and moves armside, and I guess it is about 78-80 MPH. On my best days my slider has been up to 86 MPH, but I'm not really consistent with it yet. When I am feeling good with it, when it's on, it's my out pitch.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I read a report in Baseball America that your velo was down at times this spring. Was there anything specific that caused that?

Taylor Morton: Well, closing is a totally different mindset than being a starter. When I was closing I'd just come in and gas ‘em up for an inning and as a starter I had to learn to conserve. Also, I caught every single day in practice and then in the games. I'd catch doubleheaders and then have to start the next day, so my legs weren't always all there. You can't let that become an excuse for your actual pitching, but when talking about velocity the reality is that you can't keep your velocity up without your legs. You can still pitch well, though.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Whether it's as a Vol or as a Yankee, what do you think that you need to work on the most as you take the next step in your baseball career?

Taylor Morton: I think I need to get more consistent with my breaking ball. If I can really get that working consistently and have three pitches working at all times, then put that with my attitude and confidence, I think it will help.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: You said you liked Griffey growing up, but did you have a facorite team?

Taylor Morton: Since I liked Griffey I followed him wherever he went, so I liked the Mariners and then I liked the Reds. After that I liked watching Vladimir Guerrero hit, and I really liked how the Angels played, so they were my favorite team.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who would you compare yourself to on the mound?

Taylor Morton: I would say a mix between Francisco Rodriguez and Justin Verlander. Rodriguez because he pitches with so much energy and you can just see it in his eyes that once he goes in he's going to make sure the hitters aren't happy about it. Verlander because he's a dominant starter that throws hard and has three good pitches. So I'd say a mix between them, but more Rodriguez because of his energy.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So would you say your personality on the mound is more like a Joba Chamberlain than a Mariano Rivera?

Taylor Morton: Oh yeah, definitely.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: So you're not afraid to show emotion on the mound?

Taylor Morton: No, I think you have to. When you do something and show good emotion I think it just puts life into the whole ballpark. I stay really poised though, because you can't tell if I'm throwing a no-hitter or getting crushed.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What would you say is your best moment in baseball so far?

Taylor Morton: I guess being on the team that won state my freshman year. Also going to the Team USA trials, where I made it to the final 34 before being cut, was a great experience. Then last summer in East Cobb playing for the East Coast Grays was great. I've had a lot of good moments, so it's hard to pick just one.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Who was the toughest hitter you have faced?

Taylor Morton: I've faced Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Justin O'Connor, and they were all 1st rounders.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I know that you struck out Harper, but how did you do against the other two?

Taylor Morton: I struck out O'Connor once, but I can't remember what I did with Machado – I just remember that I've faced him. He probably got a hit though, he's a great hitter [laughs].


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: What has been your maximum pitch count in any start you've had?

Taylor Morton: I play for a great high school coach, Bill Clark, and he actually coached Team USA a few years ago, so I haven't thrown more than 100 pitches in a game. He's really good about keeping my pitch count down.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: That's refreshing to hear because every year I talk to a lot of high school pitchers and it always seems that a lot of them have had starts where they throw well over a hundred pitches.

Taylor Morton: Oh, no [laughs]. I'm really fortunate to play for a really great coaching staff. This year in the game that decided if we would go to state or not, I was pitching and got through the 6th inning. They took me out after that and we ended up losing in the bottom of the 7th. That's how you know you play for a great coach – when he's got his best pitcher out there and takes him out maybe at the cost of winning because his pitch count is up.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: I read you were going to sit down this past weekend and figure out what you wanted to do and how to approach this situation. Did you do that?

Taylor Morton: Yeah, we're going to wait and see what happens. It's probably going to be the end of the summer before everything gets settled, but they're going to do everything they can to get me signed, and I'm going to be patient and keep my options open. I want to go ahead and play, no doubt, but we'll just have to see what happens when it comes to the negotiation stuff. I'm not in a rush – I really, really want to get out there and go play – but I understand this is a business, too.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you going to be playing this summer?

Taylor Morton: No, I'm just going to workout, stay in shape, keep my arm strong, and wait for that phone call to find out what's happening.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees do know your number for sure now?

Taylor Morton: Yeah.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: Did they know it going into the draft, or did they just find out for sure what it was this weekend?

Taylor Morton: No, they knew several weeks before the draft.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: It sounds like signing is your primary option if they can meet your number…

Taylor Morton: Yes. If they meet it we'll get it done and I'll be ready to start playing.


Kevin Levine-Flandrup: If you end up signing and eventually make it to New York, does the thought of pitching in the Big Apple give you any pause?

Taylor Morton: No. Honestly, that drives me more. Pitching in Yankee Stadium with all the fans and everybody that just hates the New York Yankees…that just drives me even more to get up as quick as I can to pitch in the stadium.


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\r\n \r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: What was it like when you heard that you had been selected by the Yankees?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I had gone to Tampa for a workout three days before the draft and did really well. After that I spoke to my area scout so I had a good idea that they could take me, and after that workout they showed the most interest. It was getting kind of late into the draft – I thought I was going to go a little earlier – so I was a little frustrated, but when the Yankees took me everything just stopped. I was so happy and it was just crazy inside my house; everybody was so excited. I'm excited to get down there and get started if they decide to sign me.


\r\n\r\n Kevin Levine-Flandrup: How much earlier had you heard that you might go?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I'm not totally sure, but I talked with other teams and when we discussed my signability they didn't have a problem with it. Every kid always has the highest expectations for himself, at least I know I do, and I had thrown really well. There were teams that liked me and kind of gave me the feel that I could go earlier, but after the Yankees took me it really didn't matter. It was such a great phonecall to get and I really didn't care that I went in the 9th round after that.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: What was that workout experience prior to the draft like? What specifically did you do?

\r\nTaylor Morton: When I got there I sat in the clubhouse for about an hour and got to talk to some of the guys. Then there was actually an extended spring training game against the Blue Jays and I got to pitch two innings in that game. I think I struck out four, walked one, and gave up one hit, so I did really well.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Where were you on the gun?

\r\nTaylor Morton: 90-92 MPH, I think.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Being from Tennessee, do you know Corban Joseph?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Yeah, I think he's three years older than me, and I played against him my freshman year in the state tournament. I was talking about him with [Yankees area scout] DJ recently, and he's going to be a big-leaguer; he's good.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Are your height and weight still 6'3\", 195 lbs?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I'm actually 205 lbs now.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Is that due to working out, or just a result of getting older?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Yeah, I think it's just maturing. I've worked out, but I think it's just me filling out naturally. Hopefully I can put on some more, so we'll see what happens.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Any nicknames?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Yeah, everyone calls me Taymo.


\r\n\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Do you have any idea of what the Yankees organization and/or farm system is like?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Oh yeah. From my understanding they have the best farm system there is, all of the locations are really nice, and the developmental staff is great, so I'm excited.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: You were both a pitcher and a hitter in high school, playing catcher, and you'll play two-way at Tennessee if you go there. What are feelings on being a pitcher exclusively if you sign with the Yankees?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I'm very cool with it now. This year was the first year in my life that I was a starting pitcher. I threw 46 innings this year, and before then I had just closed. I've caught since I was eight and that's what I love to do – I love to hit – but after last summer I was faced with reality, and reality was that I was going to be a pitcher. I just had to face it, and since the beginning of my senior year I really love to pitch because when you're pitching you control the game. Whatever you do affects what is going to happen in the game, so I love it now. I love taking that control out to the mound with the attitude that I'm just going to dominate the hitters.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Did you play any other sports besides baseball?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I played football through my sophomore year, and was a tight end and a linebacker. When I stopped playing football was when I was getting good and baseball and saw that I had a chance at my dreams coming true. I love playing football, but I wasn't going to take the risk of getting hurt when I knew that my true love was baseball and that's what I was going to end up doing.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: So was it your sophomore year when you realized that you were better than everyone and could actually do something with baseball, or was it earlier?

\r\nTaylor Morton: When I was younger my dream was always to be a Major League player, and my favorite player was Ken Griffey, Jr. When I was about five I found out he got drafted out of high school, and back then I didn't know how the draft worked and thought that was really rare; that it was the biggest thing. So since then my goal was always to get drafted out of high school and go to the Major leagues. When I was about 12 I was throwing so much harder than the other kids and was more physically mature, and that was when I first felt like I could really get drafted. In high school I started getting invited to showcases and stuff, and that was when it was really time to go to work because I could really do this.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Can you give us a detailed description of your arsenal?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I throw a fastball, a changeup, and a slider. My fastball has been up to 96 MPH, but consistently it's in the 90-92, 93 MPH range. My changeup is my favorite pitch, and it took me about three years to get a feel for it. Ever since I was a kid all my coaches have instilled in me that a changeup is a good pitch to have and puts less stress on your arm, so when I got to high school I really started to work with it. It's a circle changeup that dives and moves armside, and I guess it is about 78-80 MPH. On my best days my slider has been up to 86 MPH, but I'm not really consistent with it yet. When I am feeling good with it, when it's on, it's my out pitch.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: I read a report in Baseball America that your velo was down at times this spring. Was there anything specific that caused that?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Well, closing is a totally different mindset than being a starter. When I was closing I'd just come in and gas ‘em up for an inning and as a starter I had to learn to conserve. Also, I caught every single day in practice and then in the games. I'd catch doubleheaders and then have to start the next day, so my legs weren't always all there. You can't let that become an excuse for your actual pitching, but when talking about velocity the reality is that you can't keep your velocity up without your legs. You can still pitch well, though.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Whether it's as a Vol or as a Yankee, what do you think that you need to work on the most as you take the next step in your baseball career?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I think I need to get more consistent with my breaking ball. If I can really get that working consistently and have three pitches working at all times, then put that with my attitude and confidence, I think it will help.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: You said you liked Griffey growing up, but did you have a facorite team?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Since I liked Griffey I followed him wherever he went, so I liked the Mariners and then I liked the Reds. After that I liked watching Vladimir Guerrero hit, and I really liked how the Angels played, so they were my favorite team.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Who would you compare yourself to on the mound?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I would say a mix between Francisco Rodriguez and Justin Verlander. Rodriguez because he pitches with so much energy and you can just see it in his eyes that once he goes in he's going to make sure the hitters aren't happy about it. Verlander because he's a dominant starter that throws hard and has three good pitches. So I'd say a mix between them, but more Rodriguez because of his energy.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: So would you say your personality on the mound is more like a Joba Chamberlain than a Mariano Rivera?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Oh yeah, definitely.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: So you're not afraid to show emotion on the mound?

\r\nTaylor Morton: No, I think you have to. When you do something and show good emotion I think it just puts life into the whole ballpark. I stay really poised though, because you can't tell if I'm throwing a no-hitter or getting crushed.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: What would you say is your best moment in baseball so far?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I guess being on the team that won state my freshman year. Also going to the Team USA trials, where I made it to the final 34 before being cut, was a great experience. Then last summer in East Cobb playing for the East Coast Grays was great. I've had a lot of good moments, so it's hard to pick just one.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Who was the toughest hitter you have faced?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I've faced Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Justin O'Connor, and they were all 1st rounders.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: I know that you struck out Harper, but how did you do against the other two?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I struck out O'Connor once, but I can't remember what I did with Machado – I just remember that I've faced him. He probably got a hit though, he's a great hitter [laughs].


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: What has been your maximum pitch count in any start you've had?

\r\nTaylor Morton: I play for a great high school coach, Bill Clark, and he actually coached Team USA a few years ago, so I haven't thrown more than 100 pitches in a game. He's really good about keeping my pitch count down.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: That's refreshing to hear because every year I talk to a lot of high school pitchers and it always seems that a lot of them have had starts where they throw well over a hundred pitches.

\r\nTaylor Morton: Oh, no [laughs]. I'm really fortunate to play for a really great coaching staff. This year in the game that decided if we would go to state or not, I was pitching and got through the 6th inning. They took me out after that and we ended up losing in the bottom of the 7th. That's how you know you play for a great coach – when he's got his best pitcher out there and takes him out maybe at the cost of winning because his pitch count is up.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: I read you were going to sit down this past weekend and figure out what you wanted to do and how to approach this situation. Did you do that?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Yeah, we're going to wait and see what happens. It's probably going to be the end of the summer before everything gets settled, but they're going to do everything they can to get me signed, and I'm going to be patient and keep my options open. I want to go ahead and play, no doubt, but we'll just have to see what happens when it comes to the negotiation stuff. I'm not in a rush – I really, really want to get out there and go play – but I understand this is a business, too.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Are you going to be playing this summer?

\r\nTaylor Morton: No, I'm just going to workout, stay in shape, keep my arm strong, and wait for that phone call to find out what's happening.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: The Yankees do know your number for sure now?

\r\nTaylor Morton: Yeah.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: Did they know it going into the draft, or did they just find out for sure what it was this weekend?

\r\nTaylor Morton: No, they knew several weeks before the draft.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: It sounds like signing is your primary option if they can meet your number…

\r\nTaylor Morton: Yes. If they meet it we'll get it done and I'll be ready to start playing.


\r\n\r\nKevin Levine-Flandrup: If you end up signing and eventually make it to New York, does the thought of pitching in the Big Apple give you any pause?

\r\nTaylor Morton: No. Honestly, that drives me more. Pitching in Yankee Stadium with all the fans and everybody that just hates the New York Yankees…that just drives me even more to get up as quick as I can to pitch in the stadium.


\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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