White Sox player wrap-ups - Brent Morel

White Sox player wrap-ups - Brent Morel

Until next season starts, this is your standard Brent Morel action shot

If you're like me, and there's a very good chance you're not, then you're presently sweating bullets waiting for some word on the Konerko decision.  To ease us through these challenging and digestion-altering times, let's relax and look back at the warm vibrations that were Brent Morel's promising 2010 season.

As we sit here in November, or as I should say, as we sit here a really long ways away from Opening Day, Morel is a slight favorite to be the starting 3rd Basemen for the 2011 White Sox.  He's wowed us with his steady defense, his hard-working nature, and his random blips of power hitting.  In doing so, he's become the favorite position prospect of nerdy baseball bloggers anyway.

However, the problem with being the favorite young player of nerdy baseball bloggers is that they shun the obvious choice in some vain attempt to come off as more knowledgeable.  So even though Dayan Viciedo could hit 40 HRs some year, and Chris Sale might have a 200 strike season, we want to make sure we get in early on the "next Joe Randa" bandwagon.

Such is the nature of the profession.

Stat line: .231 BA, .271 OBP, .415 SLG, .687 OPS, 3 2B, 3 HR, 9 R, 7 RBI, 4 BB, 17 SO, 2 SB (100%), .305 wOBA, -1.0 UZR, 0.0 WAR

What did we expect?: Alright, so maybe I didn't know who he was at the start of the season, but the buzz around Brent Morel picked up steadily as the year went on.  First he was the other 3rd base prospect....then he was simply the competent fielding alternative to Dayan Viciedo in the farm system...then he was the reason that Dayan Viciedo to 1st base seemed like the only logical choice....then he was suddenly the best minor league position player the White Sox had.  He got there by fielding well, and hitting lots and lots of doubles.  (40 in AA-AAA-MLB combined)

This is the part where I stop rambling and put up what FutureSox.com had on him.


Morel showing his defensive prowess by stopping this throw from flying into left field

was originally better known for his defense than his bat as a prospect,
but he
is changing that. The Sox have moved him quickly through
the system and he has done well offensively. He raised his profile
by winning the batting title in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. He
doesn't have big
power, but projects to have at least decent power. He is a good contact
hitter with a solid line drive swing. He is faster than most third
basemen and is an
above average baserunner allowing him to steal some bases in the minors.
He has good range to go with his plus arm. John
Sickels made
a Joe Randa comparison. Morel might hit a few more home runs, but that
seems like a fair projection.

League Outlook:
Average starting 3B"

That really throws into perspective how very, very bad Mark Teahen was, and how insecure starting a 43-year old for most of the year made White Sox fans.  Morel has the chance to be a standard, average, starting-quality major league 3rd basemen....and we're doing backflips.

The result: This one takes some angling, because Morel has pretty crappy hitting stats including a burly 26.2% strikeout rate, and apparently the UZR stat didn't like his defense nearly as much as every human being who watched him play did.

So here goes, Morel moved through the ranks by hitting steadily in the .800-plus OPS range, dipping below (and not by much) only in 2009 while in high A-ball.  In Double-A Birmingham, he didn't flash too much power (2 HRs in 184 ABs), but had a .376 OBP on a team with next to nothing in the way of other big-time talent, earning him a promotion.  In Triple-A, Brent improved significantly for some yet-to-be-identified reason; his HRs got the expected boost from playing in the Charlotte bandbox, but the 36 extra-base hits in 306 at-bats gave him a 60 point increase in slugging percentage, and another rushed and talent-drought motivated promotion.


Hey look! It's Brent Morel kinda in focus in the background....looking strangely sheepish

The reason why Morel generated so much optimism is that most of his problems don't seem particularly systemic, and read more as the pains of adjustment to the highest level of play.  He hit .231, but he's a .305 career hitter in the minors and regarded as a good contact guy.  He struck out in 26.2% of his at-bats, but never K'd more than 20% at any stop in the minors.  Brent will never walk a lot, but that just means he, Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo, Alex Rios, and Juan Pierre can all bond and share stories about swinging at balls that almost hit them.

Brent excites because he showed more pop than expected to start (3 HRs and a .415 SLG), and gave the Sox someone who could play defense at 3rd base who's under 40 years of age.  UZR didn't rate him well, but this is a stat that can vary inexplicably season-to-season, let alone a 20-game sample size.  He can dive for balls, he has the knack for pulling in screaming line-drives, he doesn't let grounders bounce off his face, and this is such an improvement.

Love him or leave him?: With Mark Teahen sidelined with a bout of chronic incompetence, Omar Vizquel a constant unknown quantity because his career should have ended 4 years ago if not sooner, and Ozzie Guillen having already heaped affection onto him, Brent Morel looks to have turned a mildly promising 20-game stint into a starting gig at 3rd base for the 2011 White Sox. 

This is exciting for a number of reasons (rookies are cheap, up-and-comers are more exciting than has-beens and never-wases), and troubling for others.  For a rookie possibly being handed a starting job out of Opening Day, Morel is certainly not an elite talent, and isn't necessarily equipped to produce in a way that matches the excitement around him.  Even if he was a super-prospect, starting out of Opening Day is a difficult thing for a young player, it involves a lot more pressure than simply replacing some incompetent scapegoat, and it's a task that has beaten better players than Brent.

Get excited, but please...be reasonable.

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