June 30, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison (5) connects for a base hit during the eighth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park. The Marlins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins: Logan Morrison Still Thinks Chicks Dig The Long Ball?

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As the Miami Marlins start spring training for the 2013 season, first basemen Logan Morrison finds himself at a crossroads in his baseball career.  Once a very promising hitting prospect who appeared poised to be half of a terrific dynamic duo with Giancarlo Stanton, struggles with injuries and performance the last two seasons have created doubt as to what his future holds.

The Marlins’ plans for the current season are to have Morrison as their starting first baseman and a middle of the lineup bat.  With a projected lineup seriously lacking in power (the rest of projected infield combined for 7 HR’s in 2012…ouch!), the need for Logan to be a consistent productive hitter is great if the Marlins are to score.  However, he is still rehabbing from the latest knee surgery and his availability for the season opener continues in doubt.    To complicate things further for the penny pinching Marlins, with a full year of service time Morrison will become arbitration eligible for the first time which will guarantee a payday of about $2 million for next season.  First time arbitration eligible Gaby Sanchez, who Logan replaces as the Marlins opening day first baseman, just received a $1.75M contract from the Pirates after being demoted and traded away last season.  Allowed to move back to his natural defensive position of first base and handed a spot in the middle of the order, Morrison must seize this opportunity to show the Marlins and the rest of MLB that he can be the run producer the team thought they had 3 years ago when he was first called up in July of 2010.  The question is… can he?

To answer that, let’s take a look at the things Morrison did well earlier in his career that seemed to have him on fast track to Major League success.  His minor league career numbers are an impressive .290/.381/.464 with a high of 24 HR’s as a 19 year old in low A.  Though the power numbers were not huge, they were good enough and an excellent .381 on base percentage showed very good pitch recognition ability.  Even more impressive were K/BB ratios of 48/64 in 2009 at AA and 38/48 in 2010 at AAA.  A player with more walks than strikeouts at a power position is a rare find.  During a successful call up stint beginning in July of 2010 Morrison put up a very impressive .283/.390/.447, numbers very similar to his minor league career.  Included in those was an excellent K/BB ratio of 51/41.  This seems to be the type of successful player Morrison can be, an on base machine with very solid batting averages driven by his ability to make consistent solid contact while laying off bad pitches.  While he may not provide the elite power of a Stanton, he seemed to have enough power to be middle of the pack in HRs and he could more than make up for that by consistently finding his way on base.

So what changed starting in 2011?  Well, first of all the injuries limited Morrison’s playing time during 2011 and 2012 and likely inhibited his performance when he was able to stay on the field.   A closer look at the numbers suggests that he also changed his approach at the plate.  In 2011, he hit 23 HRs in just 123 games which represented the second highest total of his career (including his minor league seasons).  However, his K/BB ratio for that season was 99/54 and his overall line was a disappointing .247/.330/.468.  He suddenly had twice as many strikeouts as walks after being roughly even throughout his career.  This looks like a player who successfully inflated his HR total by swinging for the fences, but at great expense to his contact rate and on base ability.  The change cost him the two aspects that seemed to make him a successful prospect coming up through the minor leagues.  In 2012, a knee injury again limited him to 93 games played and probably affected him to an even greater degree when he did play.  The K/BB started showing signs of improvement at 58/31, but the overall results were a miserable .230/.308/.399.

Entering the 2013 season, it seems hard to believe that Logan Morrison is still, at just 25 years old, a very young player with plenty of learning and growth opportunities ahead.  He has shown the ability to be a very productive hitter in the minor leagues and in his early major league career.  Assuming he is able to fully recover from his latest knee surgery, the secret to his success seems tied to being able to marry that ability with the approach he had earlier in his career.  An approach centered on being selective at the plate and making solid contact on a more consistent basis which will probably result in more doubles than HRs, but will also result in a more productive hitter.  Looking at 2012 stats for first basemen, the .390 on base percentage Morrison put up in 2010 would have ranked 2nd only behind Prince Fielder.  Morrison’s .837 on base plus slugging from that same season would have ranked 9th.  The potential is there, he just needs to forget that “chicks dig the long ball” approach and get back to being the Logan Morrison of old.

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