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Entries in Logan Morrison (3)

Friday
Dec202013

Jesus Montero Hacking His Way Back to Triple-A

Few trades in recent memory have been as sexy -- and subsequently disappointing -- as the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda deal consummated by the Yankees and Mariners in January of 2012. Back then, it looked like an old-fashioned challenge trade of potential franchise cornerstones -- your hitting prodigy for my fireballing ace. Instead, Pineda has yet to throw a single pitch in the majors for New York, missing the entire 2012 season following labrum surgery and trying to regain his stuff in the minors late in 2013. Montero, meanwhile, has played like a minor league lifer (career 0.3 Wins Above Replacement) and is buried on the Mariners' 2014 first base/DH depth chart behind the likes of Corey Hart, Logan Morrison and Justin Smoak. The 6-foot-3, 230 pound Montero's squatting days are already over, due to a mix of injuries (a torn meniscus in his left knee in 2013), downright Doumitian glove work, and the arrival of well-rounded top prospect Mike Zunino.

It's hardly a shock that Montero, who also served a 50-game PED suspension last year, is no longer catching. His work behind home plate has long been panned, and even his most ardent supporters were only hoping that he could fake it in a Mike Piazza kind of way. Montero can't, as his career caught stealing rate (14 percent) is barely half that of the league average (26 percent), and his called strike rate on pitches thrown in the strike zone (76 percent) is the lowest among all backstops over the past three years, save for Ryan Doumit

Montero's predictable slide down the defensive spectrum wouldn't be so bad if he had developed into the devastating hitter that scouts had long prophesized. But that hasn't happened: in 732 major league plate appearances, he has a park-and-league-adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage that's three percent below average. Ditching his catcher's mask raised the bar on Montero's bat -- as a DH/first base type, he has to swat homers and get on base to be worth a roster spot. It's hard to say who the 24-year-old is at this point. He's not a catcher, and he's not a slugger. Which is why he'll almost assuredly be a Tacoma Rainer in 2014, assuming GM Jack Zduriencik doesn't sell low on the former top-five prospect.

The hulking righty hitter has already proven that he can mash fastballs at the highest level. But if Montero is to escape Triple-A purgatory and eventually join Robinson Cano in the middle of the M's lineup, he'll have to start laying off curveballs, sliders and changeups thrown off the plate. The stud once likened to Piazza and Miguel Cabrera is now drawing parallels to young hitters undone by their hacking like Jeff Francoeur and Delmon Young.

Against fastballs, Montero looks like a seasoned pro. While he chases heaters slightly more often (28.7 percent) than the average hitter (25.4 percent), he's also slugging .514 (about 80 points above the MLB average). Fourteen of Montero's 22 career homers have come off fastballs. When pitchers challenge him, Montero makes them pay with decent plate patience and serious power.

They rarely challenge him, though, as Montero has seen the fifth-lowest percentage of fastballs (42.2 percent) among AL hitters logging 500-plus plate appearances from 2011-13. There's a good reason for that approach -- Montero gets himself out against breaking and off-speed stuff by chasing pitches off the edges and in the dirt.

Montero's swing rate by pitch location versus breaking and off-speed pitches, 2011-13

MLB average swing rate by pitch location versus breaking and off-speed pitches, 2011-13

Montero has chased 42.2 percent of curves, sliders and changeups thrown outside of the strike zone, way above the 31.7 percent MLB average. That puts Seattle's hoped-for cleanup hitter in the same neighborhood as Francoeur (44.1 percent) and Young (44.8 percent), among other bad-ball swingers.

It's no secret that plate judgment is paramount for batters, but the difference between swinging at a ball and a strike is, well, striking. When hitters swing at a breaking or off-speed pitch thrown out of the zone, they slug .187. When they swing at a strike, they slug .474. Chase a curve, slider or changeup off the plate, and you hit like a pitcher. Swing at a strike, and you're suddenly Pedro Alvarez

Montero isn't a lost cause, but his plate approach needs a serious overhaul if he's going to rake in the majors. Currently, pitchers can toss soft stuff galore and watch with glee as he buries himself in the count or makes weak contact. There's no reason to let him pull a fastball into the bleachers when he's so eager to lunge at unhittable junk. Montero could still become a Paul Konerko-esque slugger, overcoming a rough big league introduction and crushing enough pitches to make a difference at a bat-only position. Short of learning to lay off soft stuff, though, Montero will join free-swingers like Francoeur and Young in top prospect infamy.

Wednesday
Jan302013

The Fantasy Baseball Diary: Cheap Power

There’s nothing I love more than getting IMs full of trash talk from my friends during the middle of drafts because of the lack of power on my team. However, at the end of all of my drafts my team is stacked with high power potential with low batting average players. I love getting cheap power because it’s always undervalued in drafts and is easy to find. The three players below provide huge power upside with low batting averages, for their position, but are currently being undervalued by fantasy players. Please note the format of the "ADP" (average draft position) section reads as follows: ADP: positional draft position (overall draft position). For example, Welington Castillo is currently the 20th catcher being taken is going 278thoverall. All ADPs are from Mock Draft Central. 

Chris Carter

Bats: R | Age: 26 |Team: Athletics | Position: 1B | ADP: 29 (365)

What do Jose Bautista, Nelson Cruz and Jason Werth all have in common? They’re right handed power hitters who were slow to develop and received the unfortunate label of Quad-A player before figuring out big league pitching. At the age of 26, Carter is finally getting an opportunity for sustained plate appearances as a platoon player, at first base, primarily against left handed pitching. Brandon Moss is ahead of him on the depth chart, but I don’t believe in Moss at all; he strikes out too much and doesn’t make enough contact to sustain his 2012 stats. If Carter can hit, he could easily supplant Moss as the primary first baseman and hit in the middle the Athletics order. He has the raw power to hit 35+ home runs if he was given 580 plate appearances.

 

Logan Morrison 

Bats: L | Age: 25 |Team: Marlins | Position: OF | ADP: 75 (328)

It’s shame his social prowess has over shadowed his on the field play. Let’s start with the bad. Morrison is a bad left fielder; he takes bad routes to ball and at times appears to be wearing a full suit of armour as he goes after balls. The past two seasons have been marred with injuries, but they were likely the result of playing outfield. In 2010 he showed he can hit for average. In 2011 he showed he can hit for power. In 2012 he showed could no longer hit for average or power. His poor performance could have been due to a right knee inflammation. This year he’s expected to play exclusively at first base in the hope he can stay healthy and most importantly, bat in the middle of the Marlins lineup. He has the raw power, approach, and swing to hit 25-30 home runs if he can play a full year.

 

 

Welington Castillo 

Bats: R | Age: 25 |Team: Cubs | Position: C | ADP: 20 (278)

After two years of September call ups, it finally appears Castillo will get an opportunity to be a full time player at the big league level. In 52 games (in the majors) he up a slash line of .265/.337/.418 along with five home runs. In 175 games in Triple-A he’s hit 33 HRs with his power coming primarily from strength rather than bat speed. He can drive balls against lefties and righties, but his impatient approach will make him a .260 hitter. With a current ADP of 20 among catchers, he’s a tremendous value because he can hit 20-23 home runs if given 525 plate appearances. He’s the perfect catcher to fill out your 12-team two catcher league.

Friday
Jul222011

@LoLoMarlins: Where Are The Walks?

On May 27, Logan Morrison was hitting like an MVP candidate for a Florida Marlins team in the thick of the NL East race. The lefty batter had a .330 batting average, a .424 OBP and a .585 slugging percentage, and the 29-20 Fish sat just two games back of the Phillies.

Flash forward to late July, and Morrison's line has nosedived to .257/.331/.469. And at 15 games back, the Marlins can't see first place with a high-powered telescope. Morrison is still hitting for power, but his walk rate has evaporated in the summer heat:

Morrison's walk rate, by month

April: 15.2%*

May: 10.4%*

June: 7.1%

July: 3.8%

* Morrison served a DL stint for a left foot sprain from late April to mid-May

That plummeting rate of free passes taken suggests that Morrison has started hacking at the plate. He certainly isn't showing the same level of discipline that he did last year, when he swung at just 19 percent of pitches thrown out of the strike zone, but he hasn't morphed into Delmon Young, either:

Morrison's chase rate, by month:

April: 29%

May: 27%

June: 24%

July: 27%

Overall: 26%

League Average: 28%

Throughout the year, Morrison has swung at more pitches thrown high out of the zone:

Morrison's swing rate by pitch location, 2010

 Morrison's swing rate by pitch location, 2011

Those extra swings at pitches thrown up the ladder play a large part in his sharply declining walk rate. But there's another problem, too: Morrison is taking more strikes as the year progresses. Check out his called strike percentage by month:

April: 30%

May: 28%

June: 35%

July: 38%

League Average: 31%

Pitchers are pounding the zone low-and-away against Morrison more often since June:

Pitch frequency by location against Morrison, April-May

 

Pitch frequency by location against Morrison, June-July

And Morrison is taking many of those strikes:

Pitch frequency of Morrison's taken strikes, June-July

You'll note that some of those low-and-away pitches that umps have called for strikes, well, aren't really strikes as defined by the zone. But Morrison can't take it for granted that those borderline pitches will go his way. In general, umpires stretch the outside corner of the strike zone with left-handed batters at the plate:

League average pitch frequency of taken strikes for left-handed hitters

For Morrison to start drawing walks again, he'll need to lay off those high, out-of-zone offerings and perhaps swing more often on low-and-away pitches that umpires tend to give to pitchers. That last part may seem counterintuitive, but this is where Game Theory -- the cat-and-mouse contest between batter and pitcher -- comes into play.

Right now, Morrison is keeping the bat on his shoulder on low-and-away pitches, and pitchers are taking advantage of that by throwing there more often. If Morrison starts to take big cuts at more of those pitches, pitchers might throw there less often, locating the ball farther off the plate or somewhere else where they're less likely to get the benefit of the doubt from the man in blue. That, in turn, would mean more balls, fewer strikes and a better chance of drawing a walk. Maybe someone should send Morrison a Tweet.