Mike Morse is the definition of a late-bloomer. From 2005 to 2009, the outfielder/infielder owned a respectable but light-hitting .293/.355/.409/.764 line with a 106 OPS+. By comparison, Daniel Murphy posted a similar .291/.332/.403/.735 line with a 102 OPS+ in 2012. So while Morse could handle the stick, he didn’t change games with it. That is, until 2010.
For the first time since 2005, the right-handed hitter accumulated more than 250 PA’s. Playing predominantly outfield, Morse posted a fruitful .289/.352/.519/.870 line with a 133 OPS+, 15 HR, 41 RBI, and 36 R. His offensive prowess immediately earned him a starting gig the following season, which proved to be a career-changing year.
The then 29 year-old bested his 2010 season, breaking out to the tune of a .303/.360/.550/.910 line with a 147 OPS+, 31 HI, 95 R, and 73 R in 575 PA’s. Even though the outfielder didn’t pass the muster on defense (-1.6 dWAR and -21.6 UZR/150), his offense carried his career-best 3.1 WAR.
But, a lot of things went wrong for Morse in 2012. The 30 year-old started the season on the disabled list with a back injury, postponing his season debut until June. Yet, upon his return, the slugger didn’t appear to be anything close to the hitter he was in 2011. In 430 PA’s, the righty posted a solid, but comparatively unspectacular .291/.321/.470/.791 line with a 112 OPS+, 18 HR, 62 RBI, and 53 R. And despite producing a 37.9% FB% and 36.5% FB% in 2010 and 2011, respectively, Morse’s FB% dropped to 24.6%. Instead, the outfielder started to hit more balls on the ground in 2012, seeing a spike from 44.0% GB% in 2011 to a 55.3% GB% in 2012.
With his recent trade to the Seattle Mariners–and subsequent designated hitter role–it’s possible that Morse’s back will stay more healthy without playing the field in 2013. Yet considering John Jaso, who the Mariners dealt to acquire Morse, posted a .276/.394/.456/.850 line with a 144+ and 3.3 WAR as a catcher in 2012, it’s difficult to understand how the Mariners really improved their hitting with the trade. Morse, who is set to become a free-agent after the season, has to prove to the Mariners and any future suitors that his 2012-season was a product of a bad back, and not a deteriorating bat.