The Nationals’ Mike Morse entered last season never having appeared in 100 games in a big league season. There were questions about what position he would play and whether or not his bat would play on an everyday basis. Consider those questions answered after Morse hit .303 with 31 homers, 95 RBI and an OPS of .910 over 146 games played. In addition, Morse provided nice value given that he played 85 games at first base and 55 in left. Can he repeat his 2011 effort in 2012? That’s the question of the day.
Morse shows remarkable consistency last season after a slow start (he hit .224 in April with one home run). Morse hit .306 before the All-Star game, .299 thereafter. He batted .297 against lefties, .304 against righties. He hit .302 at home, .303 on the road. About the only time that he didn’t hit was during the day when he batted just .248 compared to .325 at night. Given that his line drive rate for the year was 19.5 percent, it doesn’t seem like his average was over the top good, though his BABIP of .344 was a bit high. Still, he’s posted a .346 BABIP in his big league career, so his mark from last season certainly cannot be discounted.
Morse socked those 31 bombs in just 522 at-bats, an impressive ratio. He only hit 36.5 percent of his balls into the sky, not exactly the type of big number you expect to see with a power hitter. However, he was able to still reach the 30 homer plateau because of his 21.2 percent HR/F rate. That’s certainly a big number, but he did post a 19.5 percent HR/F mark in 2010. It’s probable that he’ll give back some of that rate in 2012, but that doesn’t mean a massive regression is going to occur.
My biggest concern with Morse is probably his horrendous plate discipline. His 21.5 percent career strikeout rate isn’t awful for a guy who can put the ball in the seats, bit his 6.7 percent walk rate is underwhelming. As a result, his career BB/K ratio is 0.29, a mark he barely undershot last year at 0.31. Given that the big league average is about 0.50, it’s pretty clear that Morse isn’t the most discerning of hitters at the dish. That isn’t much of a concern when he’s locked in, but when the hits stop falling it would be nice to see that he had the patience to wait for his pitch. It doesn’t look like he has that skill.
Morse will be a strong addition to any club in 2012, especially because he will qualify at first base an in the outfield. Expecting him to fully replicated his .303 average and 31 homers is likely asking a bit much, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be looking for him to lose his starting job and regress to being a bench option in mixed leagues either. Draft Morse expecting him to pretty much replicated the production he posted in 2011 and you should be alright, just don’t expect continued growth.
By Ray Flowers