The San Francisco Giants, in their search for a new left fielder, may have just stumbled upon an old one, but younger, and better defensively. No disrespect Mr. Morse.
Back on December 17th of 2013, the San Francisco Giants signed a big, burly outfielder/first-baseman to help plug a hole in the outfield and back up first base. The 6′ 5″, 245 lb. slugger would go on to have a very strong season. Thank you Mike Morse!
On November 17th 2015, again with an opening in left, the Giants signed a minor league deal with an outfield/first-baseman, who is 6’6″ and 265 lbs. Welcome Kyle Blanks! The physical similarities are obviously there. Is this comparison a stretch? Maybe. But let’s look a little deeper.
Injuries are the main reason for these two to have been available at the prices they were. Morse had wrist problems the year earlier, and that is always a worry with power hitters. Blanks has battled several different ailments over the years, the most recent being a pair of Achilles surgeries.
The Giants have managed to keep most of their core veterans healthy, when other teams could not. Perhaps the team believes that its training and medical staff knows its job better than anyone, or maybe it’s just luck. But you have to roll the dice in order to get lucky, and the Giants often do.
Well, then let’s look at the comparables between Morse and Blanks.
Jun 18, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielderMichael Morse
(38) during the third inning at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Morse was 32 years-old when he came to the Giants. He played in 88 games the year before, and hit .215 with 13 home runs and 27 runs batted in. He was always a better defensive first baseman than outfielder, so the team knew what it was getting there. It worked for the most part, and they weren’t exposed very often with him being replaced late in games.
His regular season production was strong. He hit .279 with 16 long ones, and 61 driven in. He still battled injuries, but became a hero in the playoffs, and will forever be a Giant for that!
Morse hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the eighth against the St. Louis Cardinals in game 5 of the NLCS. He then drove in two out of the three runs in the 3-2 victory in game seven of the World Series versus the Kansas City Royals.
Blanks hasn’t had close to enough at-bats over the last two years to get a good gauge of where he is. However, he did appear in exactly 88 games in 2013 with San Diego. So let’s look there. He had a .243 average, 8 home runs, and 35 runs driven in. In addition to that, Blanks is a plus defender in the outfield and is also four years younger than Morse at 28.
Since Barry Bonds last played left field, the Giants have had eight different opening day starters there. Eight in eight seasons!
New Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts started there on opening day in 2008. Then it was Fred Lewis, Mark DeRosa, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres, Michael Morse, and Nori Aoki. We will most likely be seeing our ninth in a row this year. That is barring a change of heart on Aoki, or Huff making an amazing comeback. (Don’t count him out though, he is training to play again.)
Blanks, when healthy, has shown the ability to play quality defense both in the outfield and at first base. When he was with San Diego, he was regarded as a future piece of the team. His injuries have stunted his growth, but if there is a team that keeps a roster spot open for a guy like him, it’s definitely the Giants.
Last year that spot went to Justin Maxwell, who played like a potential starter coming out of spring training. He hit well early on, but couldn’t quite keep up the production throughout the season.
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Blanks has a higher upside than Maxwell though. He is younger, has a higher average for his career, and generally just needs good health in order to contribute. He could turn into a Glenallen Hill type.
If not, it’s still a low-risk signing.
They will most likely be looking for a more long-term and proven solution for left field. But it never hurts to have a player on your roster that is versatile, and is playing for both a roster spot, as well as a future as an everyday player.
Most people knew who Mike Morse was before he came to the team. But expectations were limited due to injuries and recent performance. Could the same be said for Kyle Blanks? We could find out at the end of October.