Blazing A Trail

PHOENIX — At 21, Logan Morrison is one of the youngest participants in the Arizona Fall League. Most players come to the AFL directly from either Double-A or Triple-A, but the Mesa Solar Sox first baseman spent the entire 2008 season with high Class A Jupiter (Marlins) of the Florida State League.

Even so, the lefthanded hitter has arguably been the AFL’s most productive hitter.

Despite missing a week because of a foot injury, Morrison is leading the league with a .446 average and is coming off a 10-game stretch in which he went 21-for-43 and hit for the cycle in one game.

Morrison’s AFL performance comes after a strong season at Jupiter in which he hit .332/.402/.494 with 38 doubles and 13 home runs in 488 at bats. Even more impressive was his 80/57 K-BB rate, excellent for a young power hitter.
The steady improvement this fall is not surprising due to his advanced hitting approach and strong work ethic. Morrison has a plan for how he approaches batting practice and this discipline carries over into his at-bats during the game.

Talking to him about hitting is like conversing with a veteran hitting coach.

“Batting practice for me is to take line drives the other way early in the rounds and work on that contact point deep,” Morrison said, “and later in the rounds work on getting the head out a little bit.”

Morrison’s persistence and grinder mentality deserve the most credit for his continual improvement in the AFL.

“I’m grinding it out and not giving up ABs,” said Morrison. “If you’re 4-for-4, (I’m) wanting to go 5-for-5 and not just cashing it in and saying, OK, I’ve already got my hits for today.’ If you do that, then you’re not going to learn, and I feel like every at-bat you take is a learning process.”

His disciplined approach is not lost on others.

“He’s a worker,” Solar Sox manager Rocket Wheeler (Braves) said. “He works his butt off in the weight room to get stronger and to stay strong. He’s an animal ‘¦ he’s all out ‘¦ he’s max effort ‘¦  he is preparing himself for what he’s got to do next year.”

Morrison has had some good role models during his baseball career.

While growing up in the Kansas City area, his favorite player was George Brett, who he admired for the way the Royals Hall of Fame third baseman played the game with heart and intensity. As a youth, Morrison took hitting lessons from another former Royal, Kevin Seitzer, recently named Kansas City’s major league hitting coach.

He credits Seitzer for the foundation of his game. He’s now getting the opportunity to work with Solar Sox hitting coach Ryne Sandberg.

“He’s been there, done that,” Morrison said. “Anything I can learn from him is definitely gravy. I appreciate the fact that he’s out here. He’s a great teacher ‘¦ he wants to help and to give back. I appreciate that a lot.”

Sandberg has also been helping Morrison with his infield defense, getting him on the balls of his feet for added mobility when fielding the ball instead of on his heels.

Morrison recently played a few games in left field, primarily to give him a little more versatility as he moves through the Florida organization. He rolled his eyes when asked about the outfield experiment, but admitted that he’s athletic enough to play there if that’s what the future holds.

“I never played left,” Morrison said. “It’s definitely a learning experience. I need reps and I need a lot of them.”

Regardless of where he plays in the field, it’s the bat that’s going to take him to the big leagues. Wheeler projects Morrison to be a 25 to 30 home run man.

“When he hits the ball, he hits it hard,” Wheeler said. “The ball jumps off of it with a different sound and he can hit it a long way. He’s got a pretty good approach at the plate.”

“He’s had a lot of success out here,” Wheeler added.

Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson is in Arizona with other Yankees officials, traveling with the Peoria Javelinas team. Jackson was on the field during batting practice on Saturday at Surprise Stadium, closely observing the hitters and giving tips not just to the Yankees prospects but also to Javelina players from other organizations.

“I like to share ideas,” Jackson said, “and see good young players and good young talent. It’s exciting.”

When asked about the quality of players he had seen in the AFL, Jackson answered, “There’s a lot of young talent here that I wish the Yankees had and I’m sure that every other organization feels the same when they look at the cream of the minor league system playing in Arizona. It’s a nice place to be for a baseball person like myself that enjoys seeing outstanding talent.”

Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins was inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Scottsdale Stadium on Nov. 5. Rollins, who played for the Maryvale Saguaros during the 2000 AFL season, credited the exposure and experience he got in Arizona for helping him make the jump to a starting job in the big leagues the next season.

Travis Snider (Blue Jays) was in uniform for the Phoenix Desert Dogs during their game at Mesa on Saturday night, but the AFL has not officially added him to the roster. His addition would be odd considering only two weeks remain before the Nov. 22 championship game. Snider had a meteoric rise through the minors this past season, climbing from high Class A Dunedin all the way to the majors. He hit .301/.338/.466 with eight extra-base hits, including two home runs, and 13 RBIs in 73 at-bats for the Blue Jays.