'My game is electric': Draft prospect Morlando packs power, personality (2024)

July 4th, 2024

'My game is electric': Draft prospect Morlando packs power, personality (1)

Jesse Borek


PHOENIX -- For 18 consecutive plate appearances during his senior season at Summerville (S.C.) HS, PJ Morlando didn’t see a single pitch to hit -- 18 trips to the dish, 18 intentional walks.

As the reigning South Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year learned firsthand, it’s hard to show evaluators you can hit when no one will let you swing.

More on the Draft:
Top 250 prospects | Latest mock | Order | Top tools | Predicting the odds | Complete coverage

Top prospects:
1. Bazzana | 2. Condon | 3. Caglianone | 4. Wetherholt | 5. Smith | 6. Burns | 7. Kurtz | 8. Montgomery | 9. Griffin | 10. Rainer | 11. Yesavage | 12. Tibbs | 13. Moore | 14. Smith | 15. Caminiti

The path to earning a reputation that merits such careful consideration from opposing pitchers stems from the extensive résumé that Morlando, MLB Pipeline’s No. 43 Draft prospect, has compiled during his amateur career. The left-handed hitter spent two seasons starring on USA Baseball’s U18 team, but his star really crescendoed last summer during MLB All-Star Weekend.

In one fell swoop, Morlando won both MVP at the High School All-American Game and top honors during the High School Home Run Derby at T-Mobile Park.

“I can't believe it's been a year because I feel like it was last night,” Morlando said during the Draft Combine. “The Home Run Derby was the most memorable time of my life personally, because hitting in front of 60,000 people is not what every kid gets to do. That's not something that I truly even dreamed about. I eventually dreamed of hitting in a Home Run Derby in MLB one day, but I never would have imagined as an 18-year-old I'd walk out with a trophy and in a big chain saying, ‘I'm Homer Derby champ.’”

Morlando, maybe unsurprisingly given his previous propensity to put on a show during batting practice sessions, delivered a must-see round at the Combine. Four balls came off his bat in excess of 110 mph, and he demolished a 445-foot tape-measure shot.

But arguably even more impactful than what Morlando accomplished on the field during in Phoenix was the fact that he got to meet with a handful of clubs behind the scenes for meetings -- an opportunity to glimpse into who the precociously talented University of South Carolina commit is off the field and what feeds his relentless optimism.

More on the Draft Combine:

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  • Top performers: Day 1 | Day 2
  • Sheffield carving his own path
  • Caminiti displays two-way talent
  • Yesavage fearless in approach
  • North Dakota's Rerick eyes history
  • From Last Frontier to Combine

Back before Morlando even thought about the lights of big league stadiums or prospect rankings lists, he was just a kid running around a diamond who loved munching on sunflower seeds and being around the game of baseball.

“My favorite younger memory is when I was 10,” Morlando said. “I hit my first home run while my dad was stationed in South Korea. A 12-hour time difference and he woke up to it and I remember the FaceTime call – it was so, so many emotions to put into one FaceTime call. I'll never forget it.”

Morlando’s dad, Perry, served for more than two decades in the U.S. Air Force. The family’s home base was in the Tampa Bay area, which shaped PJ’s early big league dreams.

During the Combine, players were asked an array of questions that all made them light up: Do you remember the first piece of equipment that made you feel like a star? Whom did you first tell you wanted to be a pro ball player? Who was your favorite player growing up?

For that last one, Morlando went outside the box. Elly De La Cruz, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Bryce Harper headlined the gamut of popular selections. And while Morlando acknowledged Mike Trout is the big leaguer he currently attempts to model his all-around game after, his early Rays fandom was evident in his choice of first favorite big leaguer: Sam Fuld.

Now the general manager of the Phillies, Fuld became something of a South Florida folk hero as “Super Sam,” a dynamic, all-out-at-all-times outfielder who had a flair for going airborne to make spectacular catches. As a kid at games, Morlando donned the cape in homage to the fellow lefty swinger.

That Morlando’s base of big league emulation is a player who forged his path on hustle and grit isn’t entirely surprising given the military upbringing and pro ball lineage in his household. His grandfather, Bill Nahorodny, was a sixth-round pick of the Phillies in 1972 who appeared in parts of nine big league seasons with six different clubs. PJ’s uncle, William Nahorodny, was drafted in the 40th round of the 1998 Draft by the Giants out of Clearwater (Fla.) HS before going on to play for the University of South Florida.

Morlando, one of the consensus premier prep bats in the 2024 Draft class, will almost assuredly surpass both of those Draft positions. In many ways, it’s the culmination of a prep career that has enabled him to travel the globe playing the game he loves.

“I would say my game is electric,” Morlando said. “I'm always doing something, whether it be at the plate or in the field. I'm always gonna make sure that in some way I can impact the game. You'll never see me playing the game without a smile on my face. I always have a smile and I've just always enjoyed this game.

“I truly do look at life differently than probably most people do. I do actually believe that you only have one of this, so enjoy everything. These are opportunities that not everybody gets to have, so enjoy every single moment. Live it like it's your last and that's why playing every single baseball game like it's your last game here on Earth means a lot.”

'My game is electric': Draft prospect Morlando packs power, personality (2024)


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