Adam Morrissey Heating Up

When the A's exchanged Mark Bellhorn for Adam Morrissey, the young Australian infielder was expected to do great things. While Morrissey's path to the big leagues hasn't been as smooth as was expected at the time, his play this season in AAA seems to have him on track for a big league promotion.

In 2001, Mark Bellhorn's last season with the A's, the middle infielder had 74 AB's for the big league club. In those 74 at-bats, Bellhorn hit .135 with 37 strikeouts and a .453 OPS. Few pitchers over in the NL had a worse season at the plate then Bellhorn did in Oakland. And if you watched some NL baseball, you would have been more impressed by those pitchers as Bellhorn just had no clue at the plate. Somehow, during the off-season the A's found a taker for Bellhorn in the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs would have been doing the A's a favor simply by taking Bellhorn, but the Cubs actually handed the A's a legitimate prospect, the Australian born Adam Morrissey.

The season before, Morrissey hit .309 with 51 XBH's in just 418 AB's as a 20 year old. At the time, the trade looked incredible. But for awhile, it didn't quite turn out that way. In 2002, Morrissey was decent at best in his first season with the A's organization. Morrissey hit .291 with a .801 OPS in A Modesto, but at AA Midland, Morrissey hit just .235 with a .634 OPS and 71 K's in 302 AB's. Over in Oakland, A's second basemen struggled all season long. Mark Ellis, Randy Velarde, Ray Durham, Esteban German, and Frank Menechino all saw time at second. Those players combined for a dismal .700 OPS. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Cubs fans took a quick liking to Mark Bellhorn. Bellhorn had a very decent .258 average over 446 AB's with the Cubs, but with the average, he walked 76 times making his OBP an above average .374. He also showed great power for a second baseman hitting 27 HR's, which contributed to his .886 OPS. During the 2003 season, Bellhorn fell back to earth with a .209 average, however, before being traded to the Rockies where he even struggled in the thin Coors air.

Morrissey though, was no better, and he was playing versus obviously much weaker competition at AA Midland. Morrissey was able to improve on his prior stint at Midland, but still was disappointing. Morrissey hit .267 with just 5 HR's and a .700 OPS for Midland in 2002. Even though Bellhorn seemed to be the same player he was on the A's (again), Morrissey was no better but in the minors. And looking at what the A's second basemen did in 2002, it was depressing to see what Bellhorn was able to do Chicago. After two straight bad seasons, it seemed about time to write off Adam Morrissey as anything but a below average prospect.

This season, though, things have changed. Mark Bellhorn has been pretty good on the Red Sox (his third team in two years). But now, A's fans can be happy for the success of Bellhorn. Why is that? Because of the way Adam Morrissey has been playing this season in AAA Sacramento. Morrissey turned 23 just under a week ago, so though experienced, he's still at average age for a Triple-A player. Morrissey on the season is hitting .357 with an OPS over .920. He has 7 HR's and 11 doubles in just 171 AB's.

Morrissey has been arguably the hottest player in all of the minor leagues over the last week. During those 7 games, Morrissey has gone 14 for 30 with 4 doubles and 3 HR's. Morrissey has played second base and third base this season. While his defense isn't great, Morrissey produces exceptional offense in both spots.

There are a few different routes the A's can take with Morrissey. 1) The A's can call up Morrissey right now to take over at third, something Teahen was tabbed to do, but hasn't earned it at AAA yet like Morrissey has. 2) The A's can trade Morrissey between now and the deadline while his value is high and maybe acquire a big bat or bullpen help while being able to hang on to Mark Teahen who is one of Beane's favorites. 3) The A's can leave Morrissey in AAA all season (minus a September call-up) and give him a chance to start at second for the A's next season. A's injured starting second baseman Mark Ellis has a better glove, but Ellis never came close in AAA to posting the numbers Morrissey has thus far. There is also current A's starter Marco Scutaro for Morrissey to contend with, but while he could compete, it'd be hard on Scutaro to think he can post the numbers he has so far this season not only for the rest of 2004, but 2005 as well. 4) The A's can leave Morrissey at Sacramento for this year and next year as well, only giving him a chance if an injury at the upper level occurs, just like they have with Graham Koonce. With whatever route the A's decide to take with Morrissey, it's been fun checking the box scores every night to see a leadoff hitting second basemen getting a couple hits night in and night out.

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