As first base prospects go, is someone who potentially could keep fantasy owners up at night. Is he a power hitter? He hit 24 home runs in 2007, but his next highest total is only 13. Will he be a high average guy? He is, after all, a career .289 hitter in the minors. But do we need to discount the fact that his 2008 average of .332 was abnormally high, relative to the other three years in his minor league career? Leaving aside the stats, he suffered a significant wrist injury in 2009, complicating our efforts at evaluating his performance a great deal.
There are many uncertainties, but here’s the thing: Morrison is closer to the majors than many think. He’s now 22 and has spent four years in the minor leagues, plus while has been productive enough, he can easily slide across the infield if and when Morrison proves he’s ready.
Morrison is a good prospect, but he hasn’t been overhyped, and his performance to date is a mixed bag. All of this makes him a natural choice to take a look at in “Almost Ripe.” Having a good handle on a guy like Morrison will help fantasy owners separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
While his statistics take some deciphering, one trend that safely appears to be an asset for Morrison is his approach at the plate. His BB% has hung around the 10% mark, which is above average, and his K% has generally declined, coming in at 16.5% last season. Interestingly, last year in 278 Double-A at-bats, Morrison drew 63 walks, good for a BB% of 18.5%, 5.6% higher than his previous best. One wonders if perhaps the wrist injury he suffered made him watch a few more pitches than normal. Whether or not that is the case, the overall trends suggesting a strong approach at the plate are encouraging.
What works against Morrison more than anything is his position. First basemen have a high bar to clear in most fantasy leagues, as the pool is often fairly deep. Morrison’s ability to control the strike zone is important and bodes well for him as he advances through the upper levels of the minor leagues and into the majors, but fantasy owners will want to keep a close eye on his power numbers.
His career minor league ISO of .170 is on the low end for 1B, and it’s disconcerting that he hasn’t really put together a completely satisfying season. In 2007, he hit 24 HR with 86 RBI, but his average was a pedestrian .267. The next year, he posted a strong .896 OPS, but this was fueled in part by an average inflated by a .377 BABIP, and he only slugged 13 HR. Last season at Double-A he was okay, though his ISO stagnated at .165, offsetting an encouraging triple-slash line of .277/.411/.442.
I would probably wave a yellow caution flag with regard to Morrison. Basically, it’s hard to say something definitive about him, given his wrist injury last year. For me, he’s on the line between either being a type – a player who is certainly good, but is less than ideal in fantasy terms – or a potentially special bat. Monitor how he begins the season.
If he demonstrates the power improvement everyone hopes he has within him, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a productive partial season in the major leagues as soon as this season, due to his advanced plate approach. Even if the power doesn’t come, he’s a good bet to be a good doubles/on-base guy, giving him value as a second 1B or a starter in deeper leagues.