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Posted at 3:18 PM ET, 02/18/2011

Is Michael Morse the next Jayson Werth?

By Adam Kilgore

When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth this December, Michael Morse knew immediately he would lose uniform No. 28. He didn't mind. Morse chose 28 in the first place because of Werth, his new teammate and the player he tries to emulate more than any other.

"I've followed his whole career," Morse said. "That's who a lot of people compare me to. I get excited when somebody says that, 'you remind me of Jayson Werth.' He's a late bloomer. He didn't really to get play at first. Like Raul Ibanez. Those guys got their shot, and they knocked down the door."

morse swing.jpg

When General Manager Mike Rizzo traded Ryan Langerhans to the Mariners for Morse in 2009, he envisioned Morse's absolute ceiling as Werth. The comparison makes sense. Werth, who is 6 feet, 5 inches and 220 pounds, showed some offensive potential but struggled to stick with a position or a team early in his career - he came up as a catcher and bounced from the Orioles to the Blue Jays to the Dodgers to the Phillies. The same could be said of Morse, who is 6 feet, 5 inches and 230 pounds - he was drafted as a shortstop and switched from the White Sox to the Mariners to the Nationals.

Statistically, the comparison is also apt. Compare, for example, the age 23-28 seasons of Werth and Morse:

morse chart.bmp

Morse, with some opportunity, seemingly has the potential for a breakout, even more so than his 2010, when he hit .289/.352/.519 with 15 home runs in 266 at-bats. (If he had enough at-bats to qualify, Morse's 133 OPS+ would have tied for 13th in the National League.) The question is, will he get it?

As thing stand now, with Nyjer Morgan in center and Werth in right, Morse will compete with Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel for a spot in left field. Defensively, those two have the advantage. History suggests Morse is the better hitter. The Nationals could choose one of them, but the most likely outcome seems a platoon of some sort.

"If one of those guys is clearly dominant over the others in spring training, then we'll put that guy out there," Manager Jim Riggleman said. "If it's a combination of a couple guys, that would probably be the only position where would get in a position where we would platoon."

Last year, even as his offensive production rose, Morse never complained about his bench role, which changed into mostly an everyday role once Josh Willingham underwent season-ending surgery. This season, Morse has the same approach.

"If Riggs does whatever, I'm content with it," Morse said. "No one likes a complainer."

With that attitude, Morse will try to make himself into baseball's next late bloomer. While playing in Seattle, Morse came to know Ibanez, a player whose career took off late. Ibanez told Morse he reminded him of Werth, and ever since, Morse has admired Werth. Morse briefly met Werth last season, milling around the batting cage before a game with the Phillies.

"Now," Morse said, "I get to learn from him here."

By Adam Kilgore  | February 18, 2011; 3:18 PM ET
 
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Comments

Werth has admired Werth.

Adam's just messing with FeelWood now.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 18, 2011 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Even my grandmother realized Morse was one of the best offensive players on the Nats last year. And even she couldn't understand why he was always riding the pine.
Yep that didn't stop Riggleman from Running Willie Harris out there day in and day out. And on the days he did throw Morse a crumb and start him, Riggleman had him doubleswitched out of there by the 5th. If memory serves, he may have even taken him out early in a game he had 2 homers. Riggleman is completely clueless.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 18, 2011 3:44 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Nyjer traded or cut, Bernadina in CF, Morse in LF and Ankiel as bench depth.

Posted by: trezmartin | February 18, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

BTW as far as Pudge goes, before it was all about we need Pudge to mentor the young Strasburg etc. Yea like Stras needed anybody's help. But anyway, I get that. But now you've got a pitching staff of graybeards in Livo, Gorz and Marquis. Even Lannan, Maya and Wang aren't kids anymore. What do you need Pudge for anymore? I thought you traded Capps for this hotshot young future catcher. You're gonna lose close to 100 games again. Why isn't the new guy in there? What the freak is wrong with Riggleman? Or is it Rizzo?

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 18, 2011 4:02 PM | Report abuse

@Skins_fan_22:

Getting rid of Pudge now would make no sense at all for a few reasons:
1) Going in with two very inexperienced catchers is not a good idea, IMO.
2) Ramos is still something of an unknown, so it would make more sense to see what we have first.
3) Flores is coming off an injury that sidelined him for a full season plus... What if he turns out to be made of glass?
4) Pudge will have far more trade value at the deadline for a team wanting a veteran catcher down the stretch.

Posted by: TimDz | February 18, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

@Skins_fan_22:

Getting rid of Pudge now would make no sense at all for a few reasons:
1) Going in with two very inexperienced catchers is not a good idea, IMO.
2) Ramos is still something of an unknown, so it would make more sense to see what we have first.
3) Flores is coming off an injury that sidelined him for a full season plus... What if he turns out to be made of glass?
4) Pudge will have far more trade value at the deadline for a team wanting a veteran catcher down the stretch.

Posted by: TimDz | February 18, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

OOPS.....double post...sorry.

Posted by: TimDz | February 18, 2011 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Morse the next Werth?

If you mean overpaid for being slightly above average than I guess so.

Gotta love the poster from a few threads ago hating on the O's because of what Boswell and I said. Haters gonna hate. Gotta love the guy saying that the Nats have 2 of the best prospects, EVER, in MLB. Too bad prospects don't win anything and 1 of the Natinals big-time prospects isn't even gonna pitch for a while and who knows if he'll ever be the same.

All year long when you open your paper or open your interweb browser and look at the standings lots of Natinal fans are gonna be so bitter when they see that the O's are 20/30 games better than the Natinals.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 18, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

>>Pudge will have far more trade value at the deadline for a team wanting a veteran catcher down the stretch.

Great, then hold him and trade him at the deadline. Why hold back Ramos, who you gave away Capps for just so you can trade Pudge at the deadline? There is absolutely no reason to play Pudge in front of Ramos, if Ramos is the guy you've been saying he is. If he isn't, then what was the trade all about. You can't have it both ways.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 18, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

Hahaha, how much value is a washed up, aging catcher really gonna have at the trade deadline?

C'mon.

Posted by: P00PY_MCP00P | February 18, 2011 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Let's recap, no pun intended. You gave away your all star closer for a stud catcher who couldn't crack the lineup in Minnesota for obvious reasons--Mr. Mauer.
Mr. Pudge is no Mr. Mauer.
Ramos should've been on the field as soon as the ink on the trade was dry. Instead Riggleman wouldn't even let him bypass the great Wil Nieves.
What in tarnation did you trade Capps for?
Just wondering.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 18, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

This post is really dumb. Morse can't hit breaking pitches and can't field. Hilarious that the ghost of Willie Harris lives here.

Posted by: paulkp | February 18, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

>>Morse can't hit breaking pitches

Yea too bad. I mean he only batted .289 with 15 dingers and 41 RBi and a .519 slugging in just 266 ABs. 2 bad he can't hit those breaking balls.

Posted by: skins_fan_22 | February 18, 2011 6:12 PM | Report abuse

skins-fan, I'm with you on this.
Ramos and Flores need to play, Pudge has little to no value now and will have little to no value at the trade deadline.
It would be best for our club to have Ramos and Flores up, presuming Flores is healthy. But Pudge being the veteran HOF caliber guy that he is (was), Riggleman will play him unless Rizzo manages to trade him.

Posted by: Sunderland | February 18, 2011 6:13 PM | Report abuse

It's true that Morse has holes in his game; who doesn't? His overall performance when played regularly last year ought to be enough to earn him an extended shot this spring in LF. Let the initial contest be between Bernie and Nyjer in center.
If the concern then arises as to who will lead off if Nyjer loses out, why not try a little unconventionality and put Michael there? He's a veteran, appears cool under pressure, and gets on base with regularity. It would be nice to have someone on base when Zimm comes up.
I think that lineup construction theory has been over-analyzed to death. Many of us know of a manager who regularly bats his pitcher 8th, and the sky hasn't fallen yet.
Lest anyone get too excited about the above, I have little illusion that any of these notions will actually be considered.

Posted by: Slidell | February 18, 2011 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Morse is an eveyday player. It would be useless to use him on a platoon basis.
Go Mike

Posted by: chiro1623 | February 18, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

Adam, I know I read this before. Oh yah, I remember, it was discussed at length last year on NatsInsider making the comparison between the 2.

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | February 18, 2011 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Typical skins fan, skins_fan_22,

Gee how many major league games has Ramos been in? He has yet to break 100. Wanna count how many Pudge has played in? World Series? Playoffs? Egad what a dolt.

To say that both Ramos and Flores are inexperienced is an understatement. The Nats have a unique advantage in that they can slowly introduce one or both to the rigors of the long major league season (for a catcher) instead of throwing them in sink or swim. Ramos isn't in the best shape one reason why he dropped a whole heck uv a lot of slots in Keith Law's top 100. Flores is coming off some pretty serious shoulder surgery.

skins_fan_22 back to RI with you it where all the inane comments belong.

Posted by: periculum | February 18, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Pudge might be in depends by the trade deadline.

Posted by: tommy11599 | February 19, 2011 1:05 AM | Report abuse

My hope is that by the end of spring training, the Nats are able to move one of the catchers for something tangible. Going to AAA would not serve Ramos or Flores well, altho I'd send Ramos down before Jesus, assuming the latter shows he's back to form.

Pudge could have another hot April. Then his trade value would be at its peak.

It'd be great to trade from a position of strength, and I'd hate to see either Flores or Ramos not get a decent shot.

Posted by: nats24 | February 19, 2011 1:45 AM | Report abuse

Riggleman likes to platoon him, but I think it's a little misguided. It's true that Morse kills lefties (.999 OPS, with 8 homers in 88 at-bats last year) but he's far from terrible against righties. .287/.340/.466 last year, and a respectable .279/.341/.421 for the career.

Ankiel and Bernadina were both lefties, but at this point Morse is just a much better hitter than Bern. Ankiel is a closer case: he was .256/.338/.462. against righties (he can't hit lefties at all) .254/.323/.462 for his career. More power than Morse, less contact. But at this point, Morse is more of a breakout candidate than Ankiel.


Posted by: 202character | February 19, 2011 4:35 AM | Report abuse

At least the team is showing signs of having capable players competing for roster spots...what a pleasant change. I like the silver lining we're starting to find....can a winning record be far behind?

Posted by: cokedispatch | February 19, 2011 10:32 AM | Report abuse

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