- Rating: 4.50
- 2022 stats: 14 G, 14.0 IP, 4.50 ERA, 3.25 FIP, 1.500 WHIP, 1.38 SO/BB, 92 ERA+
- Date of birth: January 6, 1993 (29 years old at the moment of publishing)
- 2022 earnings: $362,648 (via Spotrac)
- 2023 status: Non-tendered by the Diamondbacks, now a free agent.
It’s hard to imagine now, but Reyes Moronta was once a little kid, who grew up in a small and poor neighbourhood of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic’s capital city. Although there was “always food on the table”, as Reyes Moronta would tell, there wasn’t money for much more. Little Reyes loved playing baseball, something he inherited from his father.
“My dad bought a lottery ticket, he won, and he bought me a glove. That would become my pillow [...] and I’d take it everywhere.” - Reyes Moronta in an interview available on YouTube (Spanish) on getting his first baseball glove
Moronta played catcher, just like his dad, or 3B, but was scouted as a pitcher. That was an idea from a scout, who told him that he was getting older but had a good and strong arm. He transferred to a baseball school in the city and was scouted after just a few months and signed for the San Francisco Giants for just $15,000, which wasn’t a fair amount according to his father.
“My dad stopped talking to me for a while, because he thought I had signed for a bonus that I didn’t deserve. […] I had to pay the agents and trainers for $5,000 and the other $10,000 I kept for myself [...] paying the debt on the house we had. The rest was spent on food, because my father couldn’t work that much anymore and my mother wasn’t working either...and we decided to go and see what would happen.” - Reyes Moronta in an interview available on YouTube (Spanish) on signing for the San Francisco Giants
Moronta impresses with his strike-out potential in his early years in the foreign and domestic rookie leagues and lower A, but the erratic command keeps him from making bigger leaps in the minor leagues.
That changes in 2016 when he achieves an astonishing 14.2 K/9 ratio in A+ and puts himself on the chart of the common prospect watchers. Reason for the turn-around? Probably adding muscle and weight. While he originally is signed and listed as a 175 pounds pitcher, he already looks a lot bigger come 2016.
Although the walk rate is still worrisome, he steps up his game in 2017 as well and gets his first call to the majors, but doesn’t pitch. It makes for a great anecdote as Reyes Moronta was literally having a cup of coffee, as one of the Spanish commentators recalls, but was optioned back to AA immediately after the game in which he took a sit in the dugout.
He gets hurt immediately after that and needs a month to recover, but also gets a promotion to AAA and is eventually called up to the MLB again in September to make his debut and shows off his K-potential.
He becomes a main stay in the Giants’ bullpen in both 2018 and 2019, with good K-rates, but the above-average walk rate keeps his SO/BB rate below 3. He contributes to 27 holds in those two seasons, but also 10 blown saves and 9 losses. It probably prevents Moronta from being a contender for the closer position in San Francisco.
At the end of the 2019 season he hits the injury list with a shoulder injury, which persists in the 2020 season as well. In 2021 he starts the season well in the MLB, but hits the IL again, this time with a flexor strain. He returns end July, but shows terrible command in AAA and by the end of the season the Giants decide to non-tender him.
The Dodgers sign Moronta to a minor league contract in 2022, with a $1,500,000 guarantee if he hits the major league roster. After some good appearances for Oklahoma in AAA, he is added to the big league roster. The Dominican is able to limit the walks and rack up enough strikeouts, but is tattooed by the long ball, and by the end of August he is put on waivers and claimed by the Diamondbacks just a few days later.
The Diamondbacks’ struggle to build a good bullpen shows how tough that task can be when you don’t have a boat load of money to spend. Some reinforcements have to be found on the waiver wire and the availability of Moronta on it is certainly a good opportunity for Hazen by the end of August, with quite some pitchers on the roster fighting against themselves to achieve success.
The big Dominican righty joins the Diamondbacks on August 26 and pitches 3 games in some lower-leverage situations but is soon deployed in later innings and with more pressure on the boot. He gets 3 consecutive holds in the first games in September and with Melancon and Kennedy suffocating in the closer role, our eyes start looking at Reyes Moronta to become the new lock on the 9th inning.
Unfortunately, Reyes proves to be a “box of chocolates” and we never know what we are gonna get.
At best, we get to see the Reyes who notched a save against the Dodgers on September 20 with just 6 pitches.
But, at other times, we get “Melanconed” and we see the Reyes who is tagged with the loss like in the game with the Dodgers on September 22, where he doesn’t even throw half of his pitches for strikes.
Apart from the trouble with his command, Reyes Moronta is down around 1.5 mph on average on both his slider and fastball when compared to 2019. That is quite the drop, but regaining that velocity isn’t utopia, as shown in that 6 pitch save outing against the Dodgers where he hit 97 mph several times.
Apparently it wasn’t the easiest decision, but Reyes Moronta was eventually non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on the day of that deadline. He has been hurt by the injuries, that’s for sure, but he should still be able to find a new minor league contract on a team looking for depth or that is trying to rebuild its bullpen. If he hadn’t been on the Diamondbacks’ roster already, I am sure he would have been a possible reinforcement for the 2023 bullpen.