Milwaukee’s 2012 Minor League Player of the Year, Hunter Morris, could be at Miller Park earlier than anticipated as questions linger regarding the first base position.
With right-hander Sean Halton and left-hander Juan Francisco as the only two internal options with Major League experience, Milwaukee will have a sense of urgency as they move on without Corey Hart.
Halton can be considered a short-term fix for the position, but has only played more than 120 games in a season once in his five-year minor league career.
Meanwhile, Morris has remained durable throughout his career in the Brewers organization where he played 130 games or more in three consecutive seasons.
After a stellar season with Huntsville in 2012 where he blasted 28 home runs with 113 runs driven in to earn the Double A Southern League Most Valuable Player award, Morris had a frustrating season with the Sounds.
Morris, 25, batted .247 with an On Base Percentage of .310 for the Sounds in 2013 compared to .303/.357 with the Stars in 2012.
However, Morris’ ability to obtain extra base hits including home runs remained relatively consistent with his career minor league numbers.
The left-hander from Auburn belted 24 home runs to place him second in the Pacific Coast League along with 26 doubles for the Sounds in 2013.
In his previous three seasons, he averaged 29 doubles per season including a career high 40 for the Stars.
In addition, Morris was able to end his season on a high note batting .286 with five home runs and 20 RBI in the final 31 games. He also collected eight doubles and produced four games where he drove in multiple runs.
Morris also reached base safely in 27 of the final 34 games including a nine-game hitting streak from July 29 through August 6.
Through the duration of his nine-game stretch he went 12-for-36 with three home runs and nine driven in. Morris also added a double and triple to the mix.
Furthermore, Morris also accrued a seven-game hitting streak from August 23 through August 29 and batted 14-for-30 with three doubles, seven RBI and a home run.
Milwaukee’s decision to throw Morris in the fire can be partially attributed to his 26th birthday by the end of the 2014 season.
Another contributing factor is some pessimism among fans in Milwaukee regarding the outlook of the 2014 season.
The Brewers will be entering the season with the return of Ryan Braun from his 65-game suspension.
The jury will be deliberating on how Braun responds throughout the 2014 season and also how Khris Davis will react to playing everyday in left field.
While the starting rotation exhibits promise, there is obvious concern of another injury ravaged season which forced long relievers to make spot starts (Tom Gorzellany, Alfredo Figaro, etc.).
Plate discipline plagued Morris in 2013 and will need to demonstrate to Brewers’ officials during Spring Training he has the ability to reduce strikeouts.
Through the progression of his minor league career, his strikeout totals increased from 85 in his first full season in 2011 with Brevard County to 122 with the Sounds in 2013.
Morris might not be the Brewers’ opening day first baseman, but he might be given an additional month of seasoning with Nashville before Milwaukee makes the final determination.
It will also hinge on how Halton and Francisco begin both their seasons with the Major League club.