Key Stats: Nyjer Morgan played in only 49 games after coming to the Nationals for Lastings Milledge last July. In those 49 games he stole 24 bases as opposed to only 18 in 71 games with the Pirates. Morgan’s season was cut short in late August, but if he hadn’t broke his hand he would have had 50 steals.
Skeptics Say: You ever wonder about the 29 year olds who had barely played a third of a season in MLB just erupting and then going off in that 29 year old season? It was said for Garrett Jones and can be said for Morgan. He has amazing speed, but if he can’t hit he won’t play. Morgan won’t need to worry about competition in the same way that Juan Pierre does in Los Angeles, but Wily Taveras doesn’t have much to deal with in Cincinnati and he isn’t worth a roster spot.
The amount of steals he should grab make this point less important, but Morgan is a non-factor in RBI and home runs. If he’s drafted, then your team’s shortstop shouldn’t be Elvis Andrus and your team’s third baseman can’t be Chone Figgins.
Finally, the green light is a great thing, but the Nationals might learn about the 17 times he got caught and show a little more caution next year. By comparison Jacoby Ellsbury was caught 12 times while stealing 70.
Peer Comparison: Rajai Davis and Morgan were always really fast, but could never crack the lineup. Both players are heading toward 30 years old. Looking just at the numbers, it’s a little bit of a mystery why Morgan was given more opportunities prior to last season. By the numbers, Davis wasn’t good before last year.
Morgan has always sustained a BABIP around the .360 that he finished with last year. Davis’ .366 BABIP last season was a bit extreme compared to even his best BABIP in AAA of .346. As a result Davis saw a more than 60 point jump in his batting average last season and more than double the playing time he normally receives. Interestingly his line drive rate actually went down and his fly ball rate went up. That’s not what made Willy Mays Hays great in Major League and I don’t think it will be Davis’ ticket for long term success.
I wouldn’t say anything bad about Davis playing for Mr. Moneyball because he attempted just 6 less steals in less at bats last year, but he’s less likely to get on base and thus less likely to play this year.
Lineup Outlook: Ryan Zimmerman took the next step forward in his career last season setting career highs in home runs, walks, runs, batting average, and OPS. It was the first year that Zimmerman had Adam Dunn hitting behind in the lineup and it could be the only time he has him for the full season. Dunn is not under contract after this year, and it wouldn’t be surprising for the Nationals to move him to a contender. The potential of losing Dunn’s presence will have a ripple effect on the whole lineup. Expect a better first half than a second half from Morgan.
Projection: He won’t be as good as you hoped, but with his defense he will get the playing time necessary to steal a lot.
83R 2 HR 42 RBI 51 SB .277 AVG .720 OPS
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