Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin now regrets failing to promote Hunter Morris during the September call-ups this past fall. If he had, the Brewers wouldn’t need to be scrambling for a first baseman. What if Morris had hit .300 and five home runs during the last month? Would there really be a need for another first baseman in 2014? No. But because the Brewers left Morris in Triple-A, Melvin and Co. are inquiring about the likes of Ike Davis.
It comes down to this; do the Brewers believe in Morris?
Morris recently turned 25 and finished his fourth season in the minors – his latest in Nashville. In 2012, the 6’2″ 225 pound first baseman hit .303 with 28 home runs and 114 RBI, and earned the Topps Southern League Player of the Year award. Big things seemed to be on the horizon for Morris and the Brewers thought they had struck gold in the former fourth-round draft pick.
In 2013, however, Morris had a difficult season. It was his first season in Triple-A and his stats dropped across the board. His average plummeted to .247 and his on-base percentage fell nearly 50 points. He still hit 24 dingers but not nearly as many doubles, and as a result his isolated power (.209) suffered. The good thing is that his strikeouts didn’t increase dramatically; he struck out over 100 times but he hit the century mark in Double-A as well.
Despite finishing the season strong, his struggles were enough to keep him away from the major league ball club in September. That decision is currently haunting the Brewers, especially with the emergence of 1B Jason Rogers who has hit his way into the first base conversation.
Morris isn’t a great defender but he’s not a sinking ship either. He can get the job done. And as long as he hits, discussions about his defensive woes will fall silent. He brings an important left-handed power bat into the lineup – something the Brewers haven’t had since the Prince Fielder days. As of right now (assuming that Francisco comes off the bench), the batting order consists of only one lefty – Scooter Gennett – and he’s no power threat.
From the beginning, I have labeled Morris the next Matt LaPorta – a player with great minor league numbers but with talents that don’t transfer to the bigs. And while that may end up being the case, it’s about time we found out. There should be only two candidates at first base for the Opening Day Roster – Morris and Juan Francisco. The Brewers need to either give Francisco a chance at a full-time job for the first time in his career or see if Morris can earn it during spring training. Enough with the Davis talk. Morris needs to know if the organization believes in him.
In truth, Morris would benefit from another year in Triple-A, but sometimes a man’s just gotta get a chance. If it’s not Francisco, then Morris deserves the opportunity. I guarantee Morris would be a better first baseman than anyone who assumed the position in 2013. That was a nightmare.
And to think that if Melvin had simply called-up Morris last fall, the Brewers may not be involved in this first base disaster.