Tanner Morris wants to be clear: He holds nothing against the Virginia coaching staff. He’s grateful for his past two seasons with the Cavaliers, for the ups and the downs and everything in between.
The blame is cast squarely on himself.
Morris was selected in the fifth round (No. 147 overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2019 MLB Draft on Tuesday, and for that he is thankful. But the shortstop can’t shake the feeling that some slight adjustments at the plate could’ve help earn him a higher selection — and a heftier signing bonus.
“I would’ve focused more on power,” Morris said in a phone interview.
Morris’ mind was elsewhere when his name was called Tuesday. He was at the Swannanoa Golf & Country Club in Afton with his father, George, lost in the rhythms and rules of different kind of cerebral game. At some point he put down his club and checked his phone. There was a text from a friend: “Blue Jays just took you.”
The Crozet native was a bit confused. He had been in contact with several teams, but the Blue Jays had shown minimal interest, and he hadn’t heard from Toronto before the selection.
Morris said Wednesday morning he hasn’t decided yet on if he’ll join the Blue Jays organization or return to UVa, noting that he’s still working out some of the details; the slot money for pick No. 147 is $367,900.
Morris believes he could’ve increased his value had he foreseen the emphasis teams have placed on power in this year’s draft.
He pointed out that many of the position players selected in the first couple rounds hit around 10 homers this past college season. Morris finished the 2019 campaign with a .345 batting average but only five home runs.
The shortstop said he was on pace to hit 10 homers earlier in the season, but noticed that his average was dipping. He started shortening up his swing with two strikes and placed a greater emphasis on making contact and moving runners.
“The game now is not as much about moving runners and putting the ball in play,” he said. “It’s more about driving balls in gaps and hitting doubles and homers.”
In addition to his batting average, Morris led the Cavaliers in doubles (21), slugging percentage (.507), walks (41) on-base percentage (.452) and his five long balls were tied for a team best. But he regrets not focusing even more on his power.
“I was just personally unaware that the game had shifted that quickly,” he said. “I knew more homers were getting hit in the major leagues than ever before. I just didn’t realize the draft would be dominated by guys with big power numbers.”
Two rounds after Morris’ selection, right-hander Noah Murdock was chosen in the seventh round (No. 199 overall) by the Kansas City Royals. On Wednesday, outfielder Cameron Simmons was chosen in the 20th round (590th overall) by the Chicago White Sox. Simmons, who was drafted in the 15th round by the Texas Rangers last season, hit .260 with five homers and 34 RBI in 2019.