Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Masahiko Morino Scouting Report

Masahiko Morino is an infielder for the Chunichi Dragons that has an international free agent option, which would allow him to play in the Majors if he and a MLB team are interested.

Previously has said he has no interest in playing the Majors, but since then, the Dragons have forced him to play all around the diamond, giving his normal 3rd base position to Hector Luna and blocking 1st base with Matt Clark. To be fair, Luna outhit Morino, and Morino's 2012 was a down year, with a 104 OPS +. At age 35 now, the Dragons could have been seeing a decline. However, Morino had a bounce back year in 2013, with a 120 OPS +, which is generally about the level you start looking at NPB bats as possible MLB prospects (for instance, Andruw Jones had a 119 OPS +, and Casey McGehee had a 125 OPS + in their first year in Japan). The Dragons also actively had a meeting with Morino, asking him to come back, which suggests that they do fear that he might leave (though whether domestically or internationally is not clear). Before the ball change of 2011, Morino was one of the best hitters in the Central League statistically, in the same range as Shinnosuke Abe, Norichika Aoki, and Alex Ramirez, better than Craig Brazell, Tony Blanco, and Matt Murton. Morino declined more than league normal when the ball changed in 2011-2012, but when offense came back a little bit in 2013, he improved more than average. In 2013, he had a 111 BA+/114 OBP +/125 SLG+, so maybe one of the reasons he seemed to be a slave to the ball changes was because he relies on power more than average or walks (though he walks more than league average). With that said, Morino really cut down on his strikeout rate in 2013, knocking it down to 13 % from his career 14.86 %. Whether this is a fluke or not remains to be seen, but it shows that he isn't losing bat speed or becoming easier to strikeout.

For the most part, it seems that Morino is an other way hitter, or at the very least, can go the other way on outside pitches very easily. 

This makes his power so surprising, as he has a pretty level swing without the classic pull or uppercut nature that many power hitters have:
This is probably a big reason that he doesn't have big strikeout numbers. It is tough to throw the ball away from him. With that swing, you have to come inside, and it isn't uppercutty enough to suggest that he struggles with high pitches. He isn't a large player (5-11 187, much smaller than either Clark or Luna), so the power is even more surprising, and yet perhaps concerning for a MLB team. His game is power, but from a scouting perspective, it is a little tough to see where it comes from.

Morino is making the equivalent of 1.6 million dollars, enough that a non guaranteed deal would probably not be good enough for him (especially since he doesn't appear to the type that really wants to come to the Majors), but he could be a cheaper alternative to Casey McGehee, who wants to come back to the Majors. Morino hasn't played shortstop in over a decade so I think that is out of the question, but he can play a few different corner positions, which can be useful as a bench bat, especially as a pinch hitter in the National League. He's a left-handed batter has large platoon splits, considerably better in both average and power against right-handers, which I think could make it useful off the bench. He obviously isn't an every day player, which defense and baserunning shortcomings already suggested anyway, but the ability to hit right-handed pitching, if you believe the power is legitimate is something that could play very well off an MLB bench. Whether or not MLB teams will show interest in him, and he will show interest back, is a completely different question.

No comments:

Post a Comment