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Season Preview: Logan Morrison

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Hoping for a turnaround season, Logan Morrison could be a a valuable asset in 2017.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Background:

Logan Morrison, 29, has had an inconsistent career (you can view his career stats here.) He was drafted in 2005 by the then Florida Marlins and spent the 2006 - 2010 seasons in their farm system. An impressive 2010 season at AAA landed him a spot in MLB All-Star Futures Game and a Marlins call up. He ended up finishing the 2010 season in the majors putting up great numbers, giving hope to the Marlins organization. After his solid 2011 season though, Morrison has never gotten back to a consistent level of production. Once his numbers started dropping off, he was traded to the Mariners for the 2014 season. After a decent (1.1 WAR) 2014, he was below replacement level in 2015 with a slash line of .225/.302/.383. To be fair, Safeco field is generally known as a pitchers park. Nonetheless, he continued to be plagued by inconsistent hitting. During the 2015 off season, Morrison was traded in a package deal with current Rays Brad Miller and Danny Farquhar.

2016 Season:

Morrison had a roller coaster type of 2016 season. The Rays went out looking for a power hitting first baseman, after having first baseman of different skill sets (Casey Kotchman and James Loney). Many Rays fans (me included) grumbled when he started the season 2 for 44.

He did, however, turn things around. During the stretch in May, he racked up 26 hits in 24 games resulting in a .337 average and a .475 OBP! After his hot May, he leveled out to about a league average player. Morrison finished with a .238 average, which is expected when a hitter trades contact for power numbers. In his defense, his BABIP was under .300 meaning he was getting a bit unlucky on the balls he put in play. He also finished with a disappointing 14 home runs, which is a decrease from his 2015 season with the Mariners. Morrison struck out at a 22.4% rate.

He surprisingly hit better against lefties, hitting .258, while hitting .234 against righties. In 2016 he did show a slightly above average BB% at 9.3% and a great ISO at .176. His 2016 season ISO is an increase of .018 from 2015, meaning he is at least hitting the ball with more power, even if the home runs didn’t show up. He also had a decent wRC+ of 101. His defense at first was pretty much league average. He only committed four errors but with limited range. Overall, Morrison needs to find more consistency if he is to contribute to a successful 2017 campaign.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

2017 Season Outlook

Logan Morrison will get the chance to start at first base with Rickie Weeks being more of a utility player with Casey Gillaspie and Jake Bauers being sent down to the minors, and Casey Gillaspie and Jake Bauers waiting in the wings. On the current depth chart, here, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin follow behind him, but neither is likely to be the team’s regular first baseman.

So far this spring Morrison has struggled (3 hits). He still has time to prove himself, and be a valuable asset to the team. In fact, Kevin Cash has even been tinkering with the idea of putting him in the lead-off spot (see link). He is still young enough to produce good numbers, and he has produced well before in the past.

Conclusion:

In signing Morrison the Rays must believe he still has the ability to produce, at least until the team is ready to start the clock on Gillaspie (or even Bauers). The Rays must have a productive first baseman this season to be a contender. The Rays will give Morrison the chance to continue playing, but it should be noted that Gillaspie will be the first call up if Morrison does not produce well enough.