Koen Moreno – Picture by Stephanie Lynn
The 2020 MLB Draft has to be one of the wackiest times in draft history. For one, every team only selected five players. Then, you could sign free agents, but only for a max bonus of $20,000. The Cubs drafted Ed Howard, Burl Carraway, Jordan Nwogu, Luke Little, and Koen Moreno. They also added Matt Mervis, Sheldon Reed, and several other nondrafted free agents.
Mervis is already in Chicago, but and Howard and Carraway have been trying to overcome injuries while Nwogu is going through a big slump in Tennessee. Luke Little is thriving as a reliever. But the guy we’re going to talk about today is Koen Moreno.
Shortly after being drafted, several videos surfaced of Moreno doing all kinds of other activities, including running on a treadmill and dunking basketballs that showed off his athleticism. Unfortunately, it would take until the end of the 2021 season for the young high school product to make his professional debut in instructs. He missed a lot of time due to some injuries that did not require surgery, but those injuries would not allow him to pitch in games either.
When 2022 began, Moreno was assigned initially to the Arizona Complex League. He only pitched in five games and had a 4.09 ERA in 11 innings. He struck out 16 and walked 15 but opponents were only batting .162 against him. Despite at 1.91 WHIP, Moreno was promoted to Myrtle Beach on July 25.
For the next five weeks, Moreno appeared in seven games, five as a starter. He only pitched a total of 17 innings but there were some definite issues. One, he had an ERA of 13.76 and had a batting average against .324. Second, he struck out 23 guys in 17 innings, but he also walked 25. His WHIP was a gargantuan, 2.82.
Fast Forward to 2023
For Moreno, it was really all about controlling what he was throwing. It was really like watching the beginning parts of the movie “Bull Durham” as you never knew where the pitches were going to go. Would he plunk Splash, Rally Shark, Slider, or Larry Kave. It didn’t matter if it was a fastball or a curveball, it could either be right down the middle or flying over somebody’s head. Moreno had a lot to work on to get ready for the 2023 season over last winter.
And you can tell he’s put some work in.
in 2023, things are looking up for the young 21-year-old. He is doing much better at controlling his fastball. He’s able to pitch out of situations. He still walking guys but he’s not really getting hit as much he’s already surpassed last years inning totals of 17 at Low-A as he is already at 24.1.
In May, he had an ERA under 3 and made the All-Star team here at North Side Bound as a reliever! Opponents only hit .200 off of him, but you can see the growth. It’s evident in watching him that you don’t see the “Nuke Laloosh” wild pitch fly over someone’s head.
What I like most about Moreno is that he does have a live and loose arm. The ball comes out of his hand pretty clean. It’s just a matter of knowing where that thing is going to go. His fastball usually sits around 93 and he can get it up a little higher once in a while. But his secondary pitches need a lot of work.
In watching him last night, you could see that his fastball just has a natural run to the right side and sometimes it also has a nice little cutting action that it acts like a mini slider or splitter.
Moreno is going to be one guy that I’m keeping an eye on the rest of the summer and we’ll see how much he develops and improves his secondaries when it comes to command and control.
He is far from a finished product as I’d like to say. But we’re getting there. We’re seeing progress and that’s a good thing. That has to also give him a lot of confidence to go out and execute his pitches.
Baby steps, my friends. Baby steps.