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:
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:
|162 Game Avg.||162||447||56||109||26||3||17||60||2||1||27||120||.244||.288||.430||.718||85||192|
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.