Minor League Prospect Report: Hunter Morris, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee Brewers first base prospect Hunter Morris is 6 for his last 14 at-bats for the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League, giving him an overall line of .297/.366/.324 through nine games. He's hit just one double, but given the sample sizes that doesn't mean anything really. He certainly provided plenty of power at Double-A Huntsville this year, hitting .303/.357/.563 overall with 40 doubles and 28 homers.
Morris has been in the baseball eye for some time. The Red Sox drafted him in the second round in 2007, from high school in Huntsville, Alabama, but he passed up his first opportunity at pro ball and went to college at Auburn. He put up some nice lines in college: .351/.433/.597 as a freshman, .282/.381/.503 in a disappointing sophomore season, then .386/.460/.743 (with 23 homers) in a much better junior draft campaign.
Scouts saw a lot of him in college, and his stock sagged a bit. They critiqued his hitting approach, plate discipline, physical conditioning, and glovework. There was probably some nitpicking going on due to over-exposure (scouts like shiny new toys too), but there were legitimate concerns, too. He fell to the fourth round in the 2010 draft, signing for $218,700.
Morris hit .251/.306/.436 in 291 at-bats for Low-A Wisconsin after signing, with a 20/58 BB/K ratio. Not great by any means, although not horrid jumping from college to full-season ball. He moved up to High-A Brevard County in 2011, hitting .271/.299/.461 with 28 doubles and 19 homers. The power was good to see, but he was extremely aggressive, drawing just 18 walks (note his poor OBP) and fanning 84 times. He also led FSL first basemen in errors, and an attempt to use him at third base aborted quickly. I had him as a Grade C entering 2012.
As mentioned, Morris had a good year in Double-A, showing more usable power in games and improving his plate discipline. He also polished up his defense at first base, lowering his error rate significantly and earning "Best Fielding First Baseman" in the Southern League honors from Baseball America.
Listed at 6-2, 200, Morris was born October 7th, 1988, making him 24 years old entering 2013. Corey Hart will be a free agent entering 2014. Will Morris do well enough in Triple-A next year to establish himself as Hart's successor?
Well, to be honest I'm not sure. Reports from the Southern League weren't super-enthusiastic about his bat speed, although the consensus was that he made progress improving his hitting approach, and his defense was much better. I haven't seen him in person since college, and hope to see him in the AFL next week.