Trying to stave off a few emails here, because this is apparently a topic for discussion on some message boards somewhere.
Michael Morse is a shortstop in the same way that Wil Cordero (probably the best comp. I can come up with for Morse, overall), Gary Sheffield, Julio Franco and Chipper Jones came up as shortstops. In 10 years, if Morse has a major league career, people will look at you and say “really?” when you tell them that Morse once played a meaningful defensive position. Apparently, I understated just how abysmal Morse is with the glove, and folks who have no first hand knowledge of his defensive skills find it necessary to speculate on whether he can stay at the position.
Just to be clear, he couldn’t play shortstop for your beer league team. You’d hide him in left field and pray to God that the team had a bunch of left-handed pull hitters. Reactions to watching him range to his right vary from “I could have gotten that” to “a paraplegic hippo makes that play” as the ball bounces into the outfield. Toss in a general malaise in the field, consistent lack of effort, and a reputation as being uncoachable, and improvement just isn’t in the cards here.
These opinions were born out of watching him play several times a week last year as the regular shortstop for the Winston-Salem Warthogs, more or less my home team. I work 5 minutes from Ernie Shore Field and have been a regular at the park for the past three seasons. These opinions have nothing to do with the statistical bent that I know some people hold against us. This is purely observational and completely based on traditional scouting. Whether you think we’re computer geeks or not is pretty much irrelevant in this case. Having watched Michael Morse play more often than just about anyone on earth not employed by the Chicago White Sox, it is painfully obvious to me that he’s physically incapable of playing shortstop at an acceptable level, and I don’t believe his defensive abilities translate well at any position. You can live with his shortcomings in the outfield or first base, but in the long run, Morse’s position is probably going to be “hitter”, and if he develops tremendously, might have a nice run as a DH for some American League team.
All that said, I still think he’s a decent prospect, more than a throw-in, and I’m glad the M’s picked him up in the deal. Even when he was hitting .240 last year, it was apparent that his offensive talent held some untapped promise. His bat has potential to carry him to the majors. But one thing should definitely be clear and not really be up for discussion; he can’t play shortstop at the major league level.
Shameless self-promotion two:
And, if you’re looking for a reason to go watch the Aquasox this year, how about Casey Craig, who I called the potential steal of the draft last year. In his first 32 at-bats, he’s hitting .313/.463/.438 with a 9/7 BB/K ratio. Not bad for a 19-year-old in the Northwest League. Look for Craig to move up the charts pretty quickly in the soon-to-be-updated future forty.
Shameless self-promotion: Today’s free article at Baseball Prospectus is my column on whether Edgar should retire. Free means even those of you who have suffered head trauma of some kind or have another reason not to subscribe to BP Premium can read this and see what you’re missing.
If you were a little leery about getting too excited about an A ball prospect, it is now okay to bust out the word phenom. King Felix has been promoted to Double-A San Antonio at the ripe age of 18, after the hitter-happy California League poised little challenge. During his time in San Bernardino, he posted a 2.74 ERA in 92 innings, giving up 85 hits, walking 26, and striking out 114. He leaves the Cal League as the league leader in wins and strikeouts, and he was 4th in ERA. He’ll likely end the year in San Antonio, but if he continues to dominate, don’t be surprised if he’s throwing in Tacoma next spring, and there’s a real chance he could be in Seattle by next summer. At age 19. This kid is for real.