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NL Outfielder for $1: Logan Morrison

On Thursday, Eno gave us the National League Outfielder composite rankings, complete with good-to-bad movie title tiers which sparked more debate in the comments than the actual rankings did. Regardless of that fact, we all will face the need, at some stage in our respective drafts, for brand name quality at closeout prices. With that in mind, in the Step Brothers Tier (which turned out to be tier 5, irrespective of your cinematic opinions), there’s Logan Morrison, who ought to come fairly cheaply and could be awfully productive relative to his cost.

Morrison came up midway through 2010 after the Marlins decided to shift him to the outfield, where he turned out to be particularly awful defensively. But our concern here is his bat, which it turns out – he brought. Over 287 plate appearances, Morrison hit put up a triple-slash of .283/.390/.447 and managed to score loads of runs hitting out of the 2 hole for the majority of his short season. Because we only have half a season to analyze, it’s tough to draw conclusions about the repeatability of his performance, but there’s certainly some evidence that we can check out.

His minor league career was awfully similar to what we saw at the major league level.  Over five years in the minors, he posted a .292/.383/.465 line and his time in AAA was among his best in the minors, batting .307/.427/.487 with 6 HR’s, 17 doubles, and 4 triples in just 68 games. If you’re wondering about his home field, from what I understand, Zephyr field is known to produce the fewest number of home runs in the Pacific Coast League. He has the pedigree of a patient, contact hitter, with some power so it’s not too surprising that the name Billy Butler pops up as PECOTA’s #7 in comparable hitters (but then again, so does Gerald Perry).

One might look at his .351 BABIP and express some concern, and while it’s certainly possible that his batting average might dip based entirely on luck, his xBABIP was .317, so there wasn’t a massive departure from what was predicted to what occurred. Morrison hit 48.2% of his balls on the ground and just 32.1% in the air (not including IFFB), so it’s not unreasonable that his expected BABIP would be higher than the league average. What’s more, his BABIP on those ground balls was .223 and the NL average BABIP on ground balls was .236, so he wasn’t particularly charmed in that department either.

He also should dodge the any notion of the traditional platoon split as Morrison actually hit better versus lefties than he did righties in 2010, with a batting average of .342 vs. LHP and .257 vs. RHP.  His BABIP vs. LHP was a ridiculous .446, so he was getting a lucky hop or two, but he demonstrated that he can handle lefties capably at the very least.

What he most certainly could use is a little more heft on the fly balls as he posted just a 3.2% HR/FB rate.  That’s right in there with Tony Gwynn Jr. and Rajai Davis, and given Morrison’s particular profile, it’s unlikely to stay that low.  Between PECOTA, Bill James, the Fans, and ZiPS, the average prediction on home runs is 12.  So we should expect something better than 3.2% HR/FB unless he plans on hitting 375 fly balls.

Morrison doesn’t turn 24 until August, so it’s possible that there will be some bumps in the road as he continues to develop and learn the league. But there’s a whole lot to like about him from a fantasy baseball perspective as he should provide a solid batting average, 80+ runs, and if his power develops into double digits, he should be good for 60+ RBI. For a buck, you can’t get too much better.