In Search of the Next Michael Morse

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 24: Laynce Nix #19 of the Washington Nationals hits a home run in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Nationals Park on August 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Today, I continue my series of "In Search of the Next..." by taking a look at a player who could be the next Michael Morse. I took the suggestion of Minor League Ball reader "angelsownredsux" and initially started looking at guys like Jerry Sands and Eric Thames who could put up a big power season if given an everyday job. But, I couldn't get by the huge difference in their ages, so I decided to dig a little deeper.

My digging lead me to take a look at the 2000 MLB Draft. Why the 2000 draft? That is the year where Morse was drafted in the 3rd round with the 82nd overall pick by the Seattle Mariners Chicago White Sox. I decided to take a look at each round to first see who is actually still playing in the majors, and I didn't have to look too far. And, I have to say, the player I discovered is very similar to Morse, and could put up some solid power numbers if given a full time role in 2012.

The results of my Search for the Next Michael Morse after the jump:

Michael Morse had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .303-.360-.550 with 36 doubles, 31 HRs, 95 RBI and 73 runs scored. Here are his career stats, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2000 18 CHW-min 45 180 32 46 6 1 2 24 15 29 .256 .308 .333 .642 60
2001 19 CHW-min 57 181 23 41 7 3 4 27 17 57 .227 .324 .365 .688 66
2002 20 CHW-min 113 417 43 107 30 4 2 56 25 73 .257 .310 .362 .672 151
2003 21 CHW-min 122 432 45 106 30 2 10 55 25 91 .245 .296 .394 .690 170
2004 22 CHW-SEA-min 95 366 48 103 19 6 17 71 24 73 .281 .332 .505 .837 185
2005 23 SEA-min 49 182 20 46 12 2 4 23 16 36 .253 .317 .407 .723 74
2005 23 SEA 72 230 27 64 10 1 3 23 18 50 .278 .349 .370 .718 97 85
2006 24 SEA-min 57 206 23 51 15 1 5 34 14 46 .248 .300 .403 .702 83
2006 24 SEA 21 43 5 16 5 0 0 11 3 7 .372 .396 .488 .884 131 21
2007 25 SEA-min 81 306 50 93 27 0 6 41 29 47 .304 .367 .451 .818 138
2007 25 SEA 9 18 1 8 2 0 0 3 1 4 .444 .500 .556 1.056 184 10
2008 26 SEA 5 9 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 4 .222 .364 .333 .697 90 3
2009 27 SEA-WSN-min 110 425 59 137 26 3 16 86 35 77 .322 .383 .511 .894 217
2009 27 WSN 32 52 4 13 3 0 3 10 3 16 .250 .291 .481 .772 101 25
2010 28 WSN-min 15 51 12 13 2 0 3 8 8 11 .255 .367 .471 .837 24
2010 28 WSN 98 266 36 77 12 2 15 41 22 64 .289 .352 .519 .870 133 138
2011 29 WSN 146 522 73 158 36 0 31 95 36 126 .303 .360 .550 .910 147 287
7 Yrs 383 1140 146 338 69 3 52 183 84 271 .296 .356 .499 .855 130 569
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/6/2012.

Not many could have predicted the breakout season from Morse, although he did perform well in limited action in 2010, where he hit .289-.352-.519 with 15 HRs and 41 RBI in 266 at bats. Morse did not play much in April 2011, but got his chance to play everyday when Nationals first baseman Adam Laroche went down with a shoulder injury and eventually had surgery which put him out for the season. Morse took advantage of the increase in playing time by hitting .299 or better in 4 of the next 5 months of the season, and homered at least 6 times in 4 of those months as well.

So, when researching the 2000 MLB Draft, I stumbled upon the Texas Rangers 4th round pick, and 124th pick overall, outfielder Laynce Nix. Nix has had a decent career to this point, but never has had the chance to be a full time player. i think there is a chance he could put up a season similar to Morse's breakout 2011 season if he can garner more playing time with his new team, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Nix signed a two year deal with the Phillies this offseason, and similar to Morse, who saw more playing time due to an injury to his teammate, Nix may see more playing time due to Ryan Howard's setback in his rehab. Howard had offseason surgery to repair a ruptured achilles, but had to have an infection cleaned out of the surgery wound last week, and now there is no timetable for his return to baseball activities.

Let's take a look at Nix's career stats, courtesy of Baseball Reference:

Year Age Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2000 19 TEX-min 51 199 34 45 7 1 2 25 4 2 23 37 .226 .307 .302 .609 60
2001 20 TEX-min 113 444 54 124 29 9 8 61 9 6 38 107 .279 .335 .439 .775 195
2002 21 TEX-min 137 512 86 146 27 3 21 110 17 1 72 105 .285 .374 .473 .847 242
2003 22 TEX-min 87 335 52 95 23 0 15 63 9 2 34 68 .284 .344 .487 .831 163
2003 22 TEX 53 184 25 47 10 0 8 30 3 0 9 53 .255 .289 .440 .729 81 81
2004 23 TEX-min 7 26 2 7 1 0 0 2 0 1 1 10 .269 .296 .308 .604 8
2004 23 TEX 115 371 58 92 20 4 14 46 1 1 23 113 .248 .293 .437 .730 81 162
2005 24 TEX-min 10 36 8 12 1 1 3 6 0 1 9 6 .333 .467 .667 1.133 24
2005 24 TEX 63 229 28 55 12 3 6 32 2 0 9 45 .240 .267 .397 .664 70 91
2006 25 TEX-MIL-min 95 354 55 105 19 2 17 68 4 1 22 95 .297 .347 .506 .853 179
2006 25 TOT 19 67 3 11 2 0 1 10 0 0 0 28 .164 .186 .239 .425 8 16
2006 25 TEX 9 32 1 3 1 0 0 4 0 0 0 17 .094 .118 .125 .243 -37 4
2006 25 MIL 10 35 2 8 1 0 1 6 0 0 0 11 .229 .250 .343 .593 50 12
2007 26 MIL-min 99 358 62 97 21 1 25 80 5 0 32 106 .271 .332 .545 .876 195
2007 26 MIL 10 12 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100 0
2008 27 MIL-min 103 380 63 108 22 3 23 60 5 3 36 88 .284 .348 .539 .887 205
2008 27 MIL 10 12 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 .083 .154 .083 .237 -35 1
2009 28 CIN 116 309 42 74 26 1 15 46 0 1 22 81 .239 .291 .476 .767 99 147
2010 29 CIN 97 165 16 48 11 2 4 18 0 1 15 39 .291 .350 .455 .805 114 75
2011 30 WSN 124 324 38 81 15 1 16 44 2 2 23 82 .250 .299 .451 .750 103 146
9 Yrs 607 1673 211 409 96 11 64 226 8 5 102 448 .244 .288 .430 .718 85 719
162 Game Avg. 162 447 56 109 26 3 17 60 2 1 27 120 .244 .288 .430 .718 85 192
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/6/2012.

Nix was a teammate of Morses's last season, and in his 324 at bats, he hit 16 HRs, drove in 44 runs, while triple slashing .250-.299-.451. He may not hit for a high BA this season, but he has the power to approach 25 HRs hitting in the slightly more hitter friendly Citizens Bank Park. All he needs is a hot start to the season, and he could force Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to pencil his name into the Phillies lineup on a regular basis.

Over at Fake Teams, I am on record saying I don't think Howard will return till sometime in June. His injury, and setback in his rehab, could result in more playing time for Nix this season. The Phillies also signed future Hall of Famer Jim Thome this offseason to play some first base and to serve as a power hitter off the bench, but I don't see Thome seeing much time at first base this season. The Phillies also signed former Met, Oriole and Rockie Ty Wigginton, but he could also fill in at third base should Placido Polanco go down with yet another injury. There is a chance that he will platoon with John Mayberry at first base, but Mayberry also plays left field, and with Domonic Brown set to see more time in AAA this season, Mayberry could be the starter in left this season. That leaves Nix to man first base for the Phillies.

Morse and Nix have had similar careers, with Nix having the better minor league career and Morse having the better major league career to date. Nix could change that a bit with regular playing time in 2012.

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