Nyjer Morgan has started a minor league rehab assignment, and is expected to return to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday. The question remains if he can actually claim a full-time job in centerfield or if he will continue to be nothing more than a part-time player. Hopefully it won’t take long for us to get an answer.
Prior to being sidelined with a deep thigh bruise Morgan had the opportunity to claim a starting role. Corey Hart was sidelined and Carlos Gomez was barely producing. Morgan, meanwhile, was off to a hot start hitting .455 with 0 HR, 2 RBI, 3 R and 1 SB in 22 AB.
However, Gomez has warmed up in the past two weeks, certainly helping his case. Since April 18 he has gone 14-52 with 1 HR, 7 RBI, 9 R and 5 SB. While his overall numbers are not impressive, things certainly appear to be improving for him (especially in the SB/R departments).
The big key to his turn around has been his ability to make contact. Since April 18 he has struck out just 8 times and the only time he has struck out more than once in the span was yesterday. Over his first 15 games he struck out 15 times.
On the year he has a .278 BABIP but you would expect a significantly better mark, especially for someone with his speed. If he can continue to put the ball in play we should continue to see his average rise (he’s currently at .233). Just to further drive home the point about his recent hot streak, he entered April 18 hitting .196.
One thing we have learned about Gomez over the years is that it is a longshot that he continues to produce. In 1,404 career at bats he has hit just .246 while posting a strikeout rate of 23.7%. Yes, he has a ton of speed and maybe the 25-year old has finally turned things around, but are you willing to bet on it? Sooner or later the “good” times are likely going to come to an end, giving Morgan another opportunity.
That’s not to say that Morgan is a perfect player either. His immaturity and problems both on and off the field is what helped him move from Washington to Milwaukee prior to the 2011 campaign. However, unlike Gomez, he has shown the ability to produce against Major League pitching.
Let us not forget that he hit .307 over 469 AB in 2009. Last season he fell to .253, but he also struggled a bit with a .304 BABIP (compared to a .355 mark in ’09). With his speed (76 SB between 2009 & 2010), he easily could produce a better than average BABIP. He also has shown a better ability to make contact, with strikeout rates of 15.8% and 17.3% the past two seasons.
Is Morgan a lock to be a productive player in 2011? Absolutely not, but if you are in need of speed in deeper formats he certainly is worth stashing away if you have room on your bench. He’s not going to produce power and he won’t drive in runs, but in a high-powered Brewers offense he can score runs and set the tone (and hopefully not get caught stealing too often).
If you are in a shallower format he doesn’t bring much value, but in deeper leagues keep a close eye on what happens over the next week.
What are your thoughts of Morgan and Gomez? Who is the better option? Who will produce better results in 2011?