Seldom do people see the effect the loss of an All-Star caliber player has on an entire organization from top to bottom.
But when Milwaukee lost first baseman Prince Fielder to Detroit in free agency after the 2011 season, it led the Brewers to change development plans of its last two Minor League Players of the Year.
When Morris began his tenure with the Brewers organization for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, the Single A team sent him to the outfield where he played 13 of 71 games for the Timber Rattlers.
The left-handed slugger batted .251 with nine home runs and 44 runs batted in for the Midwest League team before moving on up to High A Brevard County in 2011.
Morris proceeded to belt a then-franchise record 19 home runs with 67 runs batted in for the Manatees and collected 28 doubles for the Florida State League team. The Auburn University alum made six appearances at third base of the 130 total games in 2011.
Milwaukee assigned Rogers to the Arizona Brewers of the Rookie League and played 42 games for the team posting a promising .281 batting average and .368 On Base Percentage.
Additionally, the right-handed first baseman from Columbus State University made one appearance of his 38 fielding opportunities at third base.
Rogers also belted three home runs with a stunning 32 runs batted in during his limited appearance with the Arizona Brewers.
In Fielder’s final season for the Brewers in 2011, Milwaukee drafted another first baseman with the fourth round selection – Nick Ramirez of California State – Fullerton.
All three players exhibited some of the same tools Fielder had including the ability to get On Base, hit for power or maintain a high batting average.
Morris’ presence with the Manatees in 2011 along with the addition of Ramirez led the Brewers’ organization to make plans for Rogers in the outfield for the Timber Rattlers.
Of Rogers’ 71 total games between Rookie League Helena and Wisconsin, he made 32 appearances playing the corner outfield spots and eventually shared the first baseman role with Ramirez for Wisconsin.
The left-handed Ramirez exhibited major power numbers early in his career between Helena and Wisconsin with 11 home runs and drove in 53 runs in just 59 games.
However, his plate discipline has haunted him for the duration of his career striking out 58 times compared to 11 walks.
Departure of Fielder, commitment to Gamel
Fielder left for Detroit and the Brewers committed to Mat Gamel to fill the large shoes entering the 2012 season.
But Gamel’s time was cut short weeks into the regular season after he tore an ACL grabbing for foul ball in San Francisco.
Morris completed his time with Brevard County and was assigned to play in his hometown of Huntsville for the Stars while Rogers and Ramirez were still in Single A Wisconsin.
Little did anyone know Morris would eventually earn Southern League’s Most Valuable Player for the Brewers’ Double A affiliate – and add Brewers’ Minor League Player of the Year to his trophy display case.
With his hometown, Morris played all 136 games at first base and belted a league leading 28 home runs with 113 runs batted in for the Stars. He also fell short of obtaining the league’s Triple Crown after coming within a few percentage points of the batting title.
After a convincing 66 games for the Timber Rattlers, Rogers earned a well-deserved promotion to Brevard County collecting 24 doubles and belting six home runs with 43 runs driven in.
Rogers played left field in 14 of the 66 games for the Rattlers and also exhibited athleticism with five stolen bases and no caught stealing.
Upon his arrival to the Manatees, he posted similar numbers in the same amount of games to end the season with a .301 combined batting average between both squads along with a stunning .405 OBP.
Ramirez 2012 season was hindered by extensive amounts of injuries and played 96 games for the Rattlers but managed to blast 16 home runs with 28 doubles and 70 runs batted in.
Time to Milwaukee nearing – 2013
Milwaukee made the decision to commit to all three playing first base exclusively after Gamel was lost for the entire 2013
season after injuring the same ACL during Spring Training.
It was a season of highlights for all three first baseman including an Rogers’ All-Star berth and Brewers’ 2013 Minor League Player of the Year honors.
The two accolades given to Rogers were well earned after he slugged a career high 22 home runs with a Southern League leading 87 runs batted in. His home runs were second in the league behind teammate Brock Kjeldgaard who belted 24 for the Stars’.
Rogers also produced a phenomenal 16-game hitting streak and blasted three home runs in one game for the Stars against Pensacola.
Morris had a scorching end to the 2013 season after struggling with the transition to Triple A where he batted .247 for the Sounds compared with his .303 average for the Stars.
Also, Morris hit safely in 10 of the final 11 games of the 2013 season for a .429 batting average and ten runs batted in with two home runs.
Morris compiled a nine-game hitting streak from July 29-August 6 producing three home runs and nine runs batted in along with a double and triple.
Despite his season struggles, Morris came within one home run of tying Pacific Coast League leader Brock Peterson with 24 home runs.
Had it not been for a trying season for the Sounds where the roster was stripped of players following a myriad of Brewers’ injuries throughout the season – he may have been able to incur more than 73 runs batted in.
Ramirez tied Morris for the most Manatee home runs in a single season after he hit 19 in the 2013 season.
The Brevard County first baseman was named to the Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star squad and won the league’s home run derby.
In a tough Florida State League, Ramirez knocked in 81 runs and collected 27 doubles for the High A affiliate.
However, Ramirez’s plate discipline significantly declined with 171 total strikeouts in 2013 compared to 144 with the Timber Rattlers.
Looking at 2014
Milwaukee will remain committed to Morris as the Sounds first baseman entering the 2014 season pending an outstanding Spring Training by the Huntsville native.
It will be the first year where Morris is eligible for the Rule V draft and will necessitate the Brewers to add him to the team’s 40-man roster in order to protect him from being snagged by other teams.
Rogers faces a similar fate being exposed to the Minor League portion of the draft – and due to the honor given to him by the Brewers – it could leave no doubt he will be added as well.
Both first basemen told Brewers Farm Report they have always been open to playing a position other than first base exhibited by their past experiences with the organization.
Rogers will be making appearances in the outfield during his Arizona Fall League stint in October in order to improve his chances of remaining with the Milwaukee organization.
But for Rogers, the transition could come easier due to his athletic background of playing football and basketball.
Ramirez might be looking over his shoulder at Single A Wisconsin where another Auburn first baseman, Garrett Cooper, produced phenomenal numbers in just his first professional season.
Had it not been for Fielder’s departure, the development of Rogers could have been far different than it stands today.