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Bernie Pleskoff's Minor League Report: Putting the Ball in Play

Bernie Pleskoff

Bernie Pleskoff is a former professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

Every year prospects are promoted to major league clubs at some point during the season. In fact, this year we may be seeing more game changing ďtop shelfĒ players come up from the minor leagues than any time in recent memory.

Of course weíve seen the impact of players like Jason Heyward and Stephen Strasburg. Weíre excited about the results to date of Buster Posey and Carlos Santana. Michael Stanton has shown outstanding strength and the potential to be an impact player for years to come. The list of exciting, multiple-tool pitchers and hitters is lengthy.

Two additions to the list include Logan Morrison of the Florida Marlins and Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies. Their organizations and scouts tout each as a ďcanít missĒ prospect. Each has recently been added to their respective teamís big league club. I will discuss Morrison in this edition of my Minor League Report and Brown next week.

I first saw lots of Morrison in the 2008 Arizona Fall League. He was named a Player of The Week as well as being named to the Rising Stars team. Morrison had an outstanding fall and he caught the attention of most of the scouts in attendance. His skills aside, Morrison played with desire and a sense of urgency. He looked motivated.

This past spring, Morrison was in a battle with Gaby Sanchez for the first base job with the Florida Marlins. Sanchez won out, but it provided incentive for Morrison to keep on showing the club that he could hit quality pitching and that he deserved a place on the major league roster.

Morrisonís wishes have come true, as he has been recalled from Triple-A New Orleans to take the place of the injured Chris Coghlan in left field. Knowing they already had Sanchez at first, the Marlins had begun to play Morrison in left at New Orleans. In fact, Morrison had played left field for his final nine games for the Zephyrs before his recall.

Morrison was a 22nd -round draft pick for the Marlins out of Maple Woods Community College. Thatís the same Missouri school that Albert Pujols attended. Morrison is a very solid 6-foot-4 and 245-pound left-handed hitting (and fielding) athlete. Morrison reminds some people of a combination of Ryan Klesko and Will Clark. I think they are both good comparisons as strong, capable multiple-tooled first basemen with the ability to take the pitch to all parts of the field. Both had outstanding, lengthy careers. There are certainly worse comparisons for a ballplayer than reminding people of Klesko and Clark.

What I saw repeatedly from Morrison in his fall league season was a power hitter with generally good mechanics and a few flaws at the plate. Morrison was very selective and showed maturity and discipline beyond his years. Currently only 22 years old, (turns 23 in August) Morrison will continue to add a bit to that solid frame. And heíll only continue to improve using outstanding pitch recognition, good pitch selection and solid hitting mechanics as the basis for his career.

As a power hitter from the left side of the plate, Morrison showed some difficulty handling left-handed pitching early in his career. However, that is improving with time and experience. While he hasnít totally mastered left-handed pitching, he is far from a platoon type player or an automatic out. It may mean that his batting order position may drop a few notches against solid lefties. However, his wrists and forearms are so strong and his bat is quick enough that by using appropriate strength and quickness to the ball, he can overcome any hard breaking slider or difficult arm angle from southpaw pitchers. His swing is more on an even plane than uppercut. Thatís why he has a tendency to hit smashing line drives to the gaps as well as homers out of the park. He also hits the ball on the ground with some degree of frequency. But his selectivity and good mechanics pay dividends, since he doesnít tend to strike out and he puts the ball in play. Overall, heís a solid hitter.

In the 2009 season he lost playing time early due to a broken bone in his hand. He has fully recovered.

At Triple-A New Orleans in 68 games this season over 238 at-bats, Morrison hit .307/.427/.487 for an OPS of .914. He smacked six home runs and struck out only 35 times compared to receiving 48 bases on balls. Any time a power hitter walks more than he strikes out it is a major accomplishment. Thatís one of the factors regarding Morrison that is very attractive in his composite potential as a major hitting prospect. He makes contact, and thatís one of the skills I personally like the most about Morrison. He puts the ball in play.

One of the flaws I saw from Morrison was a slight jerk or hitch at the trigger of his swing. I think it does cost him some degree of efficiency and torque in his overall finish and follow-through. However, his quickness through the ball seems to compensate for that issue. At times when I saw him, he hit a bit too much off his front foot and he didnít shift his weight cleanly. When I saw him play for the Marlins the other day, his weight shift looked much better. In the past, I thought he could have some trouble being busted inside by high velocity pitchers. However, that too, doesnít seem to be an issue. I still saw that slight jerk before he finished his swing. It may provide comfort for him and itís probably too slight a flaw to address without negative consequences to his remaining swing mechanics.

Defensively, I thought he looked very smooth and comfortable at first base. He was confident and showed the ability to move quickly to pick ground balls. I was impressed with his agility and range for a man his size. I see few, if any problems with Morrison as a first baseman. However, because Sanchez is playing first base for Florida, Morrison is now playing left field for the major league club. Itís a position where he has less experience and it presents a challenge. But as a good athlete, I have few doubts he will adjust just as others like Kyle Blanks now (Padres) and Ryan Klesko in the past have been able to move from first base to left field with little difficulty. Neither could claim Gold-Glove caliber defense in that position, but they served their purpose with little harm to the overall defense of their respective clubs. Ryan Braun has adjusted from third base to left field quite well. Adam Dunn? Well, heís got defensive issues regardless of where he plays. Spending time concerned and worrying about his defense is my only issue with his new defensive outfield assignment for Morrison. I think he will overcome any issues inherent in getting used to being an outfielder. He certainly has the arm strength and overall athletic ability to adjust nicely to left field.

What can we expect from Logan Morrison? To begin, I think he will stick with the big club. He has too much upside and growth potential to be shuffled back and forth to the minor leagues. He has the ability to hit for a very decent batting average as well as hit for power. Those are his strongest tools at this point of his development. He should be able to drive in runs if he keeps the pressure away from himself. He is confident but not cocky, believing in his abilities and playing the game hard without giving away at-bats. I do think heís capable of hitting at least 20-25 home runs for Florida. As his career develops and he gets even stronger and learns big league pitching, the number of homers should increase. I see him capable of driving in runs as a middle of the order hitter, from third to sixth depending upon the opposing pitcher. I donít see him as a huge threat to steal, but he is capable of four or five stolen bases a year. He actually has batted second in the order for the Marlins in early games since his recall from New Orleans. I believe they are confident he will put the bat on the ball and make things happen from that front part of the batting order. However, I see him as that middle of the order type hitter as his career progresses. Morrison is also a smart base runner and I donít see him running himself into too many outs. Overall, heís a very solid and very stable contact hitter with upside.

Among the group of first basemen I have seen come through the Arizona Fall League ďfinishingĒ school recently, I would place Logan Morrison among the top of the heap. That group included Yonder Alonso (Reds), Freddie Freeman (Braves), Russ Mitchell (Dodgers), Brandon Allen (Diamondbacks), David Cooper (Blue Jays), Jeff Larish (Tigers) and Ike Davis (Mets.) There are others I am probably forgetting, but to me, Morrison looked among the most complete as a hitter for average and power. Although, few can complain about the start to his career Ike Davis is having for the Mets, Morrison should be able to match, if not surpass the production of Davis soon enough.

What happens when Coghlan returns to the Marlins is anyoneís guess. The team is known to trade away players, and that may be the case with any one of a number of their younger prospects or even their veterans. The Marlins are loaded with top prospects like Stanton and Sanchez as well as Morrison. They still have Cameron Maybin in the organization, but his stock has fallen even further this season. Now that Jorge Cantu has been traded to Texas, it should open a permanent spot on the roster for Morrison. It certainly seems as though his place is safe even when Coghlan returns. The Marlins could be a team in transition, trying to get less expensive. Again. Time will tell. The Marlins have made turning over their roster an art form. Just as players (like Cantu) get a bit more expensive, the Marlins find a way to shed them from the club.

Morrison is a good, solid contact hitter with upside. His youth and cost certainty are just perfect for the Marlins. Heís a hitter to target as a long- term keeper with upside remaining. Florida will have a new stadium soon and probably more income to build a solid team for the future. It is more than likely that players like Stanton, Sanchez and Morrison will be the centerpieces of that franchise moving forward. Any time a hitter puts balls in play, good things can happen. But when a power hitter consistently puts the ball in play, great things can happen. I think Morrison will have a very profound impact on the future of the Florida Marlins.