Massachusetts native Morgan McSweeney was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 17th round of the 2019 MLB draft. In three years at Wake Forest University, the 6’4” right-hander produced a 10-10 record with a 5.26 ERA over a span of 159.2 innings (57 games). Additionally, he struck out 154 and walked 93 batters to produce a 1.66 K/BB ratio.
McSweeney spent his 2019 professional season in Aberdeen where he pitched to a 2-0 record with a 1.90 ERA in 15 appearances for the Ironbirds. Over a span of 23.2 innings he surrendered 16 hits while striking out 30 and walking 12 to produce a 1.18 WHIP and 2.50 K/BB ratio. Of note is the fact that he did not give up a homerun in 2019. He was rewarded with an assignment to Delmarva for the South Atlantic League playoffs.
With the season on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, I recently had the opportunity to conduct a Q & A with Morgan that I hope will allow fans to get to know him better as they follow his ascent through the Orioles minor league system.
(CB): First off, how are you and your family doing during this pandemic?
(MMcS): We are doing well, making the most of the situation and just trying to avoid going out as much as possible.
Are you under a stay-at-home order and if so, what are you doing to pass the time?
Yes we are currently under a shelter in place advisory until May 4th. In the meantime, I have just been staying out of trouble as much as possible, getting as much work in as I can around the house and playing far too much Mlb The Show.
What was it like for you during those initial confusing days prior to the shut down in Spring Training?
Definitely very hectic. Initially it was just a variety of rumors swirling around regarding whether we’d be sent home or be staying in Sarasota. At that point in time we did not have a full grasp of the severity of the situation, so it was hard to comprehend the idea of postponing Spring Training and heading back home. It all happened very quickly though; it felt like we went from everything being normal to everything being completely broken overnight
What are you currently doing to stay ready for a resumed Spring Training and season?
Like many, I have definitely been getting inventive with staying in shape since most gyms and indoor facilities are closed down. It’s been tricky in Massachusetts since we have already had snow a few times since I have been home, but it has mostly been throwing into a net in the backyard, launching weighted balls into trees and getting creative with makeshift weights to try and lift a little bit.
Did the Orioles organization/coaches offer any suggestions on what to do?
They have been extremely proactive in terms of communicating with us regarding what we have available to us and creating plans based on the circumstances, but this really is uncharted territory for everyone.
Describe your overall impression of your first professional season.
Last summer in Aberdeen was awesome. The team was obviously really talented, and I was able to establish a really good routine and plan as the summer went on in terms of how to attack hitters with my stuff. Getting a little taste of full season in Delmarva in the playoffs was a lot of fun as well.
What was your first Spring Training like?
Although I was only there for a short time, the structure of it was really impressive. There was a huge focus on not wasting time or energy, whether that was in your throwing progressions or in the weight room. I got some really good work in during the couple weeks we were there. I am excited to hopefully get back down there at some point and get into games in the next couple months.
Ben Breazeale is a fellow Wake Forest alum, did he offer any help and advice?
I got a chance to catch up with Ben a little bit when we were down at camp, but when we group back up for Spring Training part 2 I’ll definitely pick his brain a little more since he has been through it all a few times before.
How were the advanced analytics and procedures used in 2019?
Really outstanding. I found that learning more about the analytical side of my stuff helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses in a more concrete way.
Do you find this new approach helpful? Why or why not?
Absolutely. When you’re playing, things happen so fast that sometimes it’s difficult to comprehend where things are going wrong. With the data they provide for us it is so much easier to understand why you are getting the results you are getting, whether that be good or bad. From there, you are able to make adjustments that are backed by data, as opposed to making changes without knowing if your intended result is going to be helpful or not.
Were you working on a particular thing in 2019 or were you just allowed to show your stuff?
They were very clear that in Aberdeen, where most of us were first year draft guys, that everyone had been drafted for a reason, and that we should all go out and show why they picked us. In college I struggled with throwing strikes, so they made a few more adjustments with me than most guys, but nothing that took away from who I was as a pitcher. The biggest change I made from college to pro ball last season was getting rid of the sinker and throwing predominantly four-seamers.
What is your pitch repertoire? Strength? Needs improvement? “Go to” pitch?
Last year I was four-seam, slider, and occasionally a change-up. I worked this offseason to develop a larger, depthy curveball, which I am really excited to use, as well as improve upon my change-up with a couple minor tweaks. My go-to pitch last season was definitely the slider, and likely still will be going forward.
Do you enjoy relief pitching or would you prefer to be a starter?
Both have their advantages to me. Being a reliever, I was able to throw in more games last season and in more high-leverage situations which was awesome. You also are able to let it eat a little bit more, as you know your outings will be significantly shorter than starting. However, I still think if I was asked to start I would be able to do that really well, and I enjoy starting also.
Your first year was solid: 1.18 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 2.5 K/BB, 0 home runs allowed, your thoughts?
I felt like I finished the season really strong which I was happy about. Coming into Aberdeen, early on I still threw a lot of balls and gave up quite a few hits early in the season. As the season progressed, I found a better command of the zone and started to miss a lot of bats.
Obviously 2020 will not be a normal season, once it resumes what will you consider to be a good season?
I am looking forward to just playing baseball again. Going out there and throwing my best stuff. I feel really prepared for whenever that time comes and I am excited to get back into it.
Describe yourself as a player to the fans, what would you like them to know about you?
I am a foot to the gas type of pitcher. If I get beat on the mound, I’m getting beat throwing my best stuff as hard as I can.
You are a Massachusetts native, so I have to ask, lobster tail or MD steamed crabs? Lobster roll or crab cake?
Unfortunately I am allergic to shellfish so I can’t eat any of them. My host family turned me onto Old Bay seasoning, however, and I put that on literally everything now.
Hopefully the readers enjoy this as much as I did; it is great to get a look inside the mind and personality of our minor league players.
For fans on social media, I would recommend you follow Morgan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MoMcSweeney35
I would also like to acknowledge and thank Mr Paul Kuo of The Ballengee Group for helping to make this Q & A possible.