Maybe fans should retort “NoMo LoMo” next time Logan Morrison quips “no homo” on twitter — especially if they’ve been laboring along with the Marlin outfielder on their roster. He’s still owned on 48% of Yahoo rosters, but that number might drop in the coming weeks if we can’t find hope in his statistical line. Let’s give it a shot — even though my Bold Prediction, that Lucas Duda would outshine him in every roto-relevant way, looks like it’ll come true no matter what.
Coming up in the minor leagues, Logan Morrison was a plate discipline and power prospect at first base. His .267/.343/.483 work at 20 years old in A-ball (with 24 home runs, 9.4% walk rate and 18.7% strikeout rate) seemed to perfectly describe what he might be in the major leagues — a little bit like a Josh Willingham with better defense. From that point on, he improved his patience (over 15% in the high minors) and had some better batting average years, but never topped the .216 ISO on the farm.
In the major leagues, he’s had years that describe his upside and downside fairly well. In his rookie season, he was all about plate discipline (14.3% BB% and 17.8% K%) and batting average (.283) thanks partially to a good BABIP (.351). He was not about the power (.164 ISO, two home runs, 3.2% HR/FB). In his second season, he lost some of the walks and struck out more (10.3% and 18.9% respectively), and the batting average (.247) regressed mostly thanks to a poor BABIP (.265). This year, he’s shown more patience and struck out less (11.2% and 16.8% respectively), but the power is once again gone (.122 ISO, four home runs, 7.8% HR/FB) and so is the batting average, once again paired with a bad BABIP (.227 BA, .255 BABIP).
With that walk rate, he’s obviously got some value in OBP leagues. But with that oscillating power and batting average, his value in all other leagues is on the precipice. Now he’s sitting against lefties and even getting mental health days. So let’s unpack the batting average and the power — starting with his platoon problems.
Morrison had 487 plate appearances against lefties in the minor leagues. His 9% walk rate and 20.3% strikeout rate in those PAs was well worse than his 12.4% and 17.7% overall walk and strikeout rates. He hit more ground balls against lefties and had a lower slugging percentage against them at every stop save one. He’s not as good against lefties, that much is sure. These things have held true into his short-sample major league splits, where he has struck out more (22.5% to 16.3%) and walked less (10.2% to 12.2%), hit more ground balls (47.6% to 46.8%) and showed less power (.138 ISO to .205 ISO) against lefties.
But look at those reduced peripherals against lefties. They’re still decent! He still has above-average patience against lefties, and an average strikeout rate. If his true-talent career power numbers against righties hold, Morrison could take a slight power hit and be useful against pitchers of both hands. As long as his power holds, and his management notices, he doesn’t seem like he needs to be a platoon player.
Again, this is true only if the power holds. An above-average walk rate with no power or speed, as he’d be against lefties, and especially coming from a first-baseman-turned-outfielder — that isn’t very exciting.
We’ve seen different levels of power from Morrison so far. Even in those first two years, he went from a guy hitting almost half his contact on the ground (48.2% ground-ball rate) with barely above-average power (.164 ISO) to a guy that had a better ground-ball rate (1.37 GB/FB, down from 1.5) and real power (.221 ISO). Who is he really?
The good news is that his current batted ball mix is the most power-friendly of his career. He’s hitting only 1.22 ground balls for every fly ball so far this year. Since 2010, that’s equal to the ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio for Delmon Young, James Loney and Joey Votto. That’s not quite MasherTM territory, but he could hit 25ish home runs with that ratio, as Votto has proved.
Add to the good news the fact that Morrison has become more of a pull hitter without losing his excellent contact rate. Take a look at his batted ball angle on the left, and you’ll see that in the middle of 2011, he started pulling the ball more. On the right, you’ll see a corresponding leap forward in the batted ball distance of his home runs, line drives, and fly balls in late 2011 (thanks to baseballheatmaps.com).
Of course, that extra distance has not showed up this season, despite Morrison continuing to pull the ball. But, since Pizza Cutter told us that power takes the longest to stabilize, we’ll have to take heart in the peripherals. Logan Morrison is still seeing the ball as he always has. His batted ball mix and pull angle are optimized for power output. He’s making as much contact as ever. He’s in a position to succeed.