Morse was a big sleeper heading into last year, and rightfully so. He finished 2010 with 15 home runs, 41 RBI and a .289 batting average in 266 at bats.
Even though he struggled out of the gate early in 2011, he put things together towards the end of May batting .301 to end May and then .300 to end June. Now, conventional thinking might make one think that Morse would regress.
Power-wise, he did, hitting only two homers in July. But contact-wise, the exact opposite happened. He ended June hitting .312 and upped his average to .317 at the end of July. He did only hit two dingers in July, but he started and ended the month with the same slugging percentage of .545.
Morse ended the season batting .303 with 31 HR, 95 RBI, 153 hits and 73 runs.
The fact that a guy is continuously making contact means his vision is consistent. Although the power dip is worrisome, he found the power, finishing the season with 7 home runs in both August and September. His homers by month are as follows: April (1), May (6), June (8), July (2), August (7), September (7).
Consistency is hard to find, but the fact that Morse rebounded from hitting only two homers in July to post seven in both August and September has to be reassuring.
The question begs – is he a top 10 OF for 2012? The following are my top ten entering the season in no particular order: Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence, Ryan Braun (if not suspended), Jose Bautista, Carlos Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson, Justin Upton, Desmond Jennings and Andrew McCutchen.
Morse falls in the next six with Alex Gordon, Matt Holliday, Josh Hamilton, Jay Bruce and Mike Stanton. He can easily overtake McCutchen because he has a better average and more power and Braun will (most likely) be suspended for 50 games to start the season. Couple that with a slight regression from Gordon and the power/average tradeoff offered by Stanton and Bruce, and I can easily see Morse sneak in as a top 10 OF this year.
Holliday and Hamilton are highly productive, but age and injuries are a bit worrisome. I personally don’t like wasting a high pick on someone who will only contribute a partial season.
I predict Morse, if healthy, will have 30-35 homers, a .300 batting average, close to 100 RBI, 170 hits and 80-85 runs. That line should land him in the top 10 by season’s end and even help the Nationals become competitors in the NL East.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, I have a huge mancrush on Morse. I drafted him in three leagues I was a part of last year and was greatly rewarded in one.