Morrison impressing Marlins
Former low-round Draft pick making most of opportunity
JUPITER, Fla. -- If everything pans out, the Marlins may have discovered a diamond in the rough with one of their low-round Draft picks.
Logan Morrison is rising quickly through the system and gaining acclaim as one of the strongest hitters in the Minor Leagues.
The 21-year-old from Slidell, La., landed in Florida's farm system as a 22nd-round pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft. That was the season the Marlins used all five of their first-round picks on pitchers, selecting Chris Volstad, Aaron Thompson, Ryan Tucker, Sean West and Jacob Marceaux.
Because Morrison didn't sign initially, he wasn't in camp with that group in 2005. Instead, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound first baseman/left fielder opted to attend Maplewoods Community College in Kansas City. It's the same school that produced Albert Pujols.
On Draft day in 2005, the Marlins were planning to select Morrison in the eighth round. He wasn't ready to sign in that spot, so Florida picked him as a draft-and-follow, meaning it had a full year to sign him before the 2006 Draft.
In recent years, First-Year Player Draft rules have changed, and teams don't have that extended period to sign players they've selected.
Morrison ultimately came to terms with the Marlins before the 2006 Draft. He now appears to be a bargain.
"For me, [junior college] was a good investment, because I decided what they were offering me was enough and I went from there," said Morrison, who is in his first big league camp.
Morrison is trying to prove that you don't have to be a high pick to make it to the big leagues.
"After we drafted him, we followed him the next year," said Marlins director of scouting Stan Meek. "He started to get more lift in his swing. His makeup was good. He's just taken off. He's always been able to hit. He's worked on the other parts of his game, too, to become a complete player."
The player Morrison reminds Meek of is Ryan Klesko.
"I think he is a better hitter than Klesko, with more power," Meek said. "He just improved himself as an all-around hitter."
There are a number of examples of low-drafted players who panned out for Florida.
Former Marlins Mike Lowell and Mike Jacobs also were taken down the line in the Draft. Lowell was selected by the Yankees in the 20th round in 1995, and Jacobs was a 38th-round choice by the Mets in '99.
"It doesn't matter what round," Morrison said. "At the same time, it's all about you getting your opportunity. When you get your opportunity, take it and run with it. I'm not there yet. So I haven't really done anything."
The general thinking is Morrison is on the fast track to get to the big leagues within the next year.
From across the league, Meek has heard high praises for the left-handed hitter and thrower.
"I think everybody thinks [Morrison] has a real good chance to become a real good big league hitter," Meek said. "I keep hearing he's one of the better Minor League hitters [scouts] have seen."
Morrison is coming off a breakout 2008 campaign, during which he posted impressive numbers for Class A Jupiter on his way to being named the Florida State League's MVP.
In 130 games, he batted .332 with 13 homers and 74 RBIs. He added 38 doubles, a triple and scored 71 runs.
Showing patience at the plate, he drew 57 walks and struck out 80 times while compiling a .402 on-base and .494 slugging percentage.
Riding the momentum from a strong season, Morrison had an even more impressive stint in the Arizona Fall League.
In 25 games and 99 at-bats with Mesa, he hit .404 with a .444 on-base and a .667 slugging percentage.
Morrison's performance in the AFL put him more noticeably on the map of many evaluators.
"All that on-the-map stuff is pretty much for the media and fans," said Morrison. "I know what I can do. It was a confidence booster to know that I can do well against those guys the media always talk about."
Morrison realizes being in big league camp is a showcase opportunity. Not many make the leap from Class A to the Major Leagues. That's not really what the Marlins are expecting of the 21-year-old.
"Realistically, do I have a shot of making this team? I probably don't," Morrison said. "I just want to come in here and turn some heads."
When the season opens, Morrison projects to be at Double-A Jacksonville. In the eyes of the Marlins, once a player shows success at Double-A, they won't hesitate to bring them fast to the big leagues.
At the big league level, a challenge that awaits players like Morrison is to stay mentally tough.
Jeff Conine, now a Marlins special assistant, said young hitters have to stay mentally focused to make it in the big leagues.
"A pitched ball is a pitched ball, whether it is in A-ball or Triple-A or the big leagues," Conine said. "Obviously, the quality gets better as you go up. But you still have to put the bat on the ball. The biggest thing in the big leagues is, if you have a weakness, they'll expose it a lot more quickly than they will at the Minor League levels."
The results Morrison produced last year earned him some high accolades. Baseball American ranked him as the third-best prospect in the Florida State League. He also was an FSL All-Star.
In Florida, Morrison is finding opportunity to advance, but he is aware there are talented players also in line with him. That's one reason why he is playing two positions -- first base and left field.
"There is a lot of talent here," Morrison said. "They say it is easy to move up, but not with some of the guys we have now. We've got guys in front of guys, and guys behind guys, who can hit and who can play.
"In any organization, you have to force your way in. I'm just trying to do that."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.