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December 13, 2013

Hot Stove Scouting Report

Justin Morneau

by Tim Steggall

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See our introduction to the Hot Stove Scouting Report series here.

Player Name: Justin Morneau

Date Filed: 12/12/2013

Throws

Bats

Primary Pos

Secondary Pos

Right

Left

1st Base

DH

Swing Breakdown

Starts closed with hands at his letters. Big step/stride without a leg lift, hands go up and back, stays closed. Load often starts late leading to late trigger—has to rush swing causing late hands. This is most likely also a product of diminishing bat speed. For the first half of the season seemed to “hit from his heels"—slow bat, very little leverage, limited his ability to drive the baseball; only able to drive pitches in the down and in quadrant of the zone. Showed some adjustments in the second half of the 2013 season. Produces good torque and leverage, especially on pitches in his bat path (down and in). Trouble reaching pitches on the outer half of the plate or upper part of the zone. Spins off, doesn’t stay in the zone very long.

Approach

Good eye at the plate, especially on pitches down. Rarely swings at pitches in the dirt or off the edges. Will chase elevated fastballs up out of the zone. Will take big hacks when ahead in the count, but not the most controlled or consistent swings. Wants to pull the baseball but has to cheat to get there on time. Barely ever hits the ball to the left side, and does not consistently show the ability to drive the ball the other way.

Makeup

Beloved by Twins fans, Morneau seems to have a reputation as a hard-working “good guy.” The common narrative surrounding Morneau is his rebound from a concussion sustained in 2010. Pre-concussion he was an MVP winner, four-time All-Star and future of the Twins organization. Post-concussion he has battled to stay on the field and find his former production. Played 152 games in 2013, 25 with the Pirates.

Breakdown of Tools

Hit Tool

Grade

5

Diminishing bat speed leads to inconsistent hard contact and swings and misses in the zone. However, a patient approach with a good eye keeps him in ABs and he still shows ability to hit mistakes.

Power

Grade

5

When he connects he still has plus raw, but his game power is completely predicated on hitting mistakes. Dead-pull power. Eleven of 17 HRs on hanging RHP breaking balls. Power is almost exclusive against RHP—11 HRs, 30 of 36 2Bs

Speed

Grade

4

Zero stolen base attempts in 2013. Very safe on the basepaths, rarely runs into outs, but will take the extra base when given the opportunity. Not completely a station-to-station baserunner but not someone that puts any pressure on defenses.

Defense

Grade

6

Sure-handed defender at first base, not particularly flashy but makes all the plays on balls he gets to. Has a reputation as an excellent defensive player who makes the infield around him better.

Arm

Grade

55

Again, nothing flashy, but an average arm that plays up due to accuracy and consistency.

Batting Trends

Date Range: 2013 Season

Splits

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Batted Ball Percentage

Batted Ball Percentage

GB

LD

FB

GB

LD

FB

7.95%

4.69%

4.82%

8.45%

4.77%

5.21%

Chase Percentage (Out of Strike Zone Swings)

Chase Percentage (Out of Strike Zone Swings)

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

38.06%

48.52%

43.33%

28.40%

51.78%

44.35%

Swing/Miss Percentage

Swing/Miss Percentage

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

10.24%

20.88%

9.52%

6.99%

13.34%

9.94%

Grades and Projections

Role

Present

Future

Second-division regular. Not a middle-of-the-lineup hitter.

Platoon against RHP. Situational .

Years expected to perform at current level: 1-2

Strengths

Breaking balls falling into his bat path are what he can most consistently handle. Still has plus raw power. Good knowledge of the strike zone—rarely swings at balls down and out of the zone.

Weaknesses

Late trigger and declining bat speed make decent fastballs tough to handle. Will swing and miss on pitches in the zone. Will chase pitches up. Has to cheat to get to pitches on the inner half, pulls off pitches away. Did make some adjustments late in the season which led to a more balanced, consistent swing, but not the type of consistent threat in the lineup traditionally associated with a first baseman. Pitchers do not appear to be afraid of Morneau, and consistently challenge him in the outer half of the zone.

Means of Exploitation

RHP can feed a steady stream of fastballs, back-door breaking balls, and changeups to the outer part of the plate. Make Morneau prove he can stay on the ball long enough to at least use the left side of the field. No threat of damage the other way. LHP can attack hard in, breaking pitches away. Challenge him; make him hit; can challenge him in the zone.

Conclusion

Morneau has one more chance to prove himself as an everyday first baseman, and Coors is probably the best environment for him. He’s a league-average hitter at a position that puts a premium on offense. He still has value because of his plus raw power, but his production the last two years hasn’t matched the reputation he built early in his career. Even if he does not establish himself as the everyday guy, he has a future in a platoon role as he still finds success against RHPs.

Tim Steggall is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Tim's other articles. You can contact Tim by clicking here

Related Content:  Colorado Rockies,  Scouting

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