Breaking down the top 7 hitting prospects: #3 Logan Morrison


Ah, now he shows up.

This post might come off very derogatory towards Logan Morrison.  Make one thing clear: he is still a very valuable prospect and a very, very good hitting prospect.  The problem with Morrison is the common perception with all prospects: First baseman constantly get overrated, while 2B/3Bs constantly get underrated.

Logan was drafted in the 22nd round as a draft-and-follow.  He would end up signing and make his Marlins debut in 2006.  2007 saw him go up towards prospect lists as a sleeper power prospect, after hitting 24 HRs as a 19 year old in Greensboro.  He would indeed break out in 2008, but not in the way envision; rather than becoming a power hitter, he instead became a massive line drive hitter.  Last year he dealt with a broken thumb and missed two months of the season, but still had an impressive Jacksonville campaign.  After the jump, we’ll take a deeper look into his numbers.

The difference between Greensboro and Jupiter/Jacksonville is like day and night.  Due to this, we’re more or less going to throw the Greensboro numbers out the window.

Morrison is a plus in every peripheral, while not being extraordinary in one.  This allows him to have a very balanced offensive game.  A major question mark though is just how much power he’ll have.  One of the biggest issues with Morrison is how many ground balls he hits; he’s sitting at 49.4% for his career.  His high GB and LD rates help him hit for a high BABIP, but keeping the ball out of the air gives less of a chance of hitting home runs.  That’s not say it’ll be impossible for him to hit a good amount of home runs.  Hunter Pence has hit 25 HRs in back to back years even though he hits over 50% GBs in both years.  An even more extreme example is Jacque Jones.  Jones went through a 5 year stretch where he averaged 24 HRs a year.  His highest was 27 and lowest was 16.  The 16 was the only time in that stretch he was below 23 HRs.  Why is it note worthy?  He had a massive GB rate of over 56% during that time period.  His HR/FB% was 21.5%, top-10 in the all of MLB for those 5 years.  However, Morrison will likely be more in the 15-20 HR range than 20+.  And 30 HRs is probably out of the question.

A second thing that pops out is just how obscene his walk percent was in Jacksonville last year.  However, he himself talked about how he was more patient at the plate than normal because of his thumb injury.  Expect his walk rates to regress down going forward.  All this said we get a projected line of about:

This would make him about a Will Clark offensively, but with less power.  And even though his .365 wOBA bests Mike Stanton’s, there’s over a WAR difference between the two.  Why?  Position and defense.  This is one of the major things people are ignoring with Morrison and most first base prospects.  This is why Matt Dominguez is probably a better prospect than Morrison; there is over a 20 run difference between the two in defensive value.  Possibly even more depending on just how good of a third baseman Dominguez is.  With one point of wOBA being worth about 0.5 runs, that means he’d have to best Dominguez by about 40 wOBA points to equal him.  That’s certainly not impossible, and my gap is only a 30 run difference.  But that’s just to show you how big the gap needs to be offensively for Morrison to pull ahead.  There’s no doubt about it, Morrison can hit.  But Morrison is a first baseman, first basemen are supposed to hit.

The above has him at about a 12.7 HR/FB% (higher than Hanley Ramirez last season).  Now if we assume Morrison can start upping that and breaking to the 25 HR range, he starts getting to about a .387 wOBA/3.65 WAR.  However, as already noted, that’s probably about his power ceiling.  The good news is, he did show that kind of potential at Greensboro (Where he had a 46.7% GB rate).  He could grow more in walks and strike outs, and BABIP as well, but he probably will struggle to surpass a .400 wOBA, putting his ceiling at being about a 4-4.5 WAR player.  His floor, again due to defense, is quite a problem though.  If his ground ball rates start to really hurt his power, if BABIP skillset isn’t able to translate at the major league level, he doesn’t have other areas to back him up in.  His offensive floor is very high, probably around a .340 wOBA, but that would put him at just a 1.12 WAR.

Another problem with Morrison is his inability to handle left handed pitching so far in his career.  His BB/K against RHP last year was nearly 3 times greater than his BB/K against LHP, and he has shown to lose a good deal of power against them as well.  Take a look at, based off what we’ve seen so far, a split for him would look like:

It would require about a .378 wOBA from a platoon partner for a platoon to be a 1 WAR gain.  If we assume a more reasonable .350 wOBA out of his partner, we’re looking at a 0.6 WAR gain.  I don’t think we should platoon him from the get-go.  With his age, let’s see if he can figure out left handed pitching.  But it’s something than front office will need to monitor.

All this said, Morrison is still a very, very talented offensive prospect who’ll likely anchor the middle of the Marlins lineup for years.  I’m also not 100% positive if, given the choice between the two, I would take Dominguez over Morrison.  Their value is very, very close.  While it may seem I’m trying to buff Dominguez while put down Morrison, that is not the case.  I’m merely trying to show instead how close their value is, where as most prospect lists instead have a rather large gap between the two.  With all the information I have given, who would you guys take between the two?

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  • Joe

    I liked the article showing the difference in defensive value, but was wondering if Morrison’s value increases if he were moved to left field where he would have below average range with a rocket arm.

  • John Herold

    Joe,

    Very good question and one I meant to address in the article but it slipped my mind. It’s unfortunately a question we do not have a lot of data to give a complete answer to though.

    The difference in WAR’s positional value for a LFer and a 1B through 150 games is roughly 4.5 runs. I have Morrison as a -2.5 1B, so if we assume his defense stays static in a move to LF, that would make him a -7 defensive LFer. Morrison has well below average range, but as you point out he has a very strong arm.

    I think -7 is a solid estimate for his defense in LF, maybe along the lines of his range being -10 runs and his arm being worth +3. However, with just how important range is to the OF, I imagine it’s more likely he’d be under -7 rather than over. It’s hard to give a concrete estimate though.

    With 1 run equaling 0.1 WAR, it’d require for him to be a -4 defensive OFer for his projection to match Dominguez’s (+1 if Dominguez can be +10 like the scouts believe). It’s possible, but I find it unlikely.