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Logan Morrison: Improved Power at First Base?

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LoMo brings energy, and hopefully a power bat.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays acquired 1B Logan Morrison on 5 November, 2015 when they shipped RHP Nathan Karns to Seattle in a 6 player trade. This is shaping up to be an excellent deal for the Rays, as starter Karns was easily replaced, and newly acquired Morrison and SS Brad Miller are scheduled to start on opening day.

Offense

Morrison won the starting 1B gig in a spring training battle with James Loney, hitting .310/.356/.452 with a 3:7 BB:K ratio in 45 PA. Though labeled the starter, lefty Morrison will be platooned at the position with righty Steve Pearce. The platoon will allow Morrison to shine against RHP most nights with Pearce giving him days off vs LHP. Here is a table to show Morrison's platoon splits.

Morrison PAvsRHP wRC+ PAvsLHP wRC+
2015 356 112 155 40
Career 1698 111 657 90

wRC+ makes Morrison's offensive production and splits easy to understand. Over the course of his career, he's been 11% above league average vs RHP, and 10% below league average vs LHP. So while he can play every day at 1B if needed, it would be better to give him days off vs LHP and let Steve Pearce's career 123 wRC+ against southpaws do the work.

Defense

Let's just say that the Rays can only improve on 1B  defense this year, as they managed to rank 29th in MLB in 2015, according to Fangraphs. James Loney was subpar for the half season he played, and fill-ins like Jake Elmore, Allan Dykstra and Nick Franklin were even worse. Only Richie Shaffer performed around league average, but that was over a very small sample size.

Logan Morrison's defense at 1B doesn't have a ton of upside, but he will be someone the Rays can count on being consistently average day in and day out. That would be a huge upgrade over last year. Let the table do the talking:

Defense Innings DRS UZR UZR/150
2015 Rays 1453.1 -11 -9.1 -11.4
2015 Morrison 1104.2 -7 -2.9 -3.1

If we think Morrison gets 2/3 of the time at 1B with Steve Pearce and his above average 1B defense picking up the other 1/3, we could see their combined effort result in league average defense at the spot. That would be a 1.5 fWAR improvement over last year, just in 1B defense alone.

Projections

Morrison PA HR BB% K% AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Steamer 417 15 9.2 16.1 .244 .318 .418 104
ZiPS 445 13 9.0 16.4 .241 .315 .391 96
Marcels 492 15 9.5 17.1 .242 .312 .403

It looks like all of the projection systems think Logan Morrison will be close to league average on offense over roughly 2/3 of a full season of plate appearances.

Steamer is the most bullish on his bat, while Marcels is highest on his usage. Morrison could outperform all of these projections if you think he will be strictly platooned, but even then the upside over the projections is only maybe 6% or so. What the projections don't show is how reliable he will be on defense compared to last year.

A league average bat with close to league average defense is something Rays fans haven't seen in over a year. That will be a welcome sight. Maybe some really hard hits along the way, and some nice pull home runs when the Rays are on the road in Boston and New York.

At the end of the day, the Rays believe in Logan Morrison enough to cut James Loney and to have hit him second in the lineup -- the most important place in the batting order. The Rays are all in on Logan Morrison. It should be interesting to see if the gamble pays off.