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How To Fall In Love (With Mike Morse)

First off, is it Mike, or Michael? We'll go with Mike.

Mike "The Beast" Morse, unfortunate possessor of perhaps the most offensively generic nickname in Major League Baseball, is currently being drafted near the beginning of the sixth round in 12-team snake drafts. I know you don't mind the break from ADP. Yes, the Mock Draft Central data is all we have currently, and yes, it will influence a player's draft stock, but we also know that it mostly reflects Mock Draft Central's proprietary rankings. Don't we? The royal "we," you know, the editorial?

See also a recent FanGraphs mock here (Morse went 65th). 

So, beloved readers, the fantasy world is already falling in love with The Beast. Back in the bygone days of January 17th, Morse went 87th in the FSTA Experts draft I antiseptically analyzed here. I would assuage your craving for Mock Draft Central data and produce an ADP trend statistic, but I am too cheap to pay for the Premium subscription. Sad face. 

Should you be the Beauty to Morse's Beast? Having shticked, let's get sabermetric:

In 71 March and April at-bats in 2011, Mike Morse produced an anemic triple slash of .211/.253/.268. 

In 451 at-bats from May 1st on, Morse hit a Pujolsian .317/.377/.594, with 30 HR, 86 RBI, and 69 R. 

The three hitters surrounding Morse in the Nationals batting order each had the worse year of their careers:

Adam LaRoche: .172/.288/.258 in 151 AB. 

Ryan Zimmerman: .289/.355/.443 in 395 AB. 

Jayson Werth: .232/.330/.389 in 561 AB. 

These players will all return to the Nationals in 2012, and each player should improve. Morse will also be in line for a full slate of at-bats, and, if the above three players maintain health, Morse should be able to settle in to a specific spot in the batting order, be it fourth in front of Laroche, or fifth, behind him. 

Morse's LD/GB/FB% data evinces a marked development in his approach:

2009: 11.1/61.1/27.8

2010: 15.6/46.3/37.9

2011: 19.5/44.0/36.5

His HR/FB% has been elite over each of the past three seasons (30.0%, 19.5%, 21.2%), which, as the 2012 Baseball Forecaster notes, suggests his power is for real. The power is indubitably for real; one need only take a glance at Morse's build and a few of the HR he belted last year to be convinced

Many expect Morse's batting average to regress, yet his xBA, also per the Forecaster, matched exactly his 2011 mark: .303. Morse's BABIP shows strong correlation with his LD%, in part because of the consistency of his HR/FB%, and in part because Morse is quite slow, thereby eliminating variance in his IFH% (infield hit percentage). 

A player with a consistently high HR/FB% and a developing approach is attractive, even if the development comes late in the player's career. Morse's scenario is highly preferable to the inverse, of a Kevin Millar-esque swing that involves a very high FB% and a lucky HR/FB%. 

Evidently, there is risk involved. Morse's statistics are unstable, and the data is limited. Yet the Trends, when they aren't lurking in the Stygian recesses of a pundit's imagination, are in Morse's favor. His LD% has increased steadily over the last three years. His GB% continues to drop. And his FB%, despite leveling off in 2011, could certainly increase. Morse's upside is a 22/38/42 (LD/GB/FB%) season with a 20-25% HR/FB, which would produce first round value. 

Morse's downside doesn't seem that bad, either. He'll be 30 in March and hitting fourth or fifth in a lineup that should improve. He had calf problems in 2010 (strained left calf, missed 35 days), but avoided the DL in 2011. And, undeniably, he adores points made in threes. For emphasis!

Superior to fifth/sixth round long-tooths Paul Konerko, Aramis Ramirez, and Kevin Youkilis, make Morse your valentine in 2012.


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