AFL Scouting Report: November 3

Shortstops usually don't come in a "super sized" version, but Michael Morse is trying to change that. The Mariners prospect is working to prove that big men can play at short and play well there. By the way, he more than welcomes comparisons to A-Rod. Plus, Dan Giese struggles in an AFL outing and Chris Roberson isn't a very good thief.

Most common question asked by reporters in the Arizona Fall League: 'What are you working on?'

The answer virtually every player gives to that question: 'Everything.'

The reporter has to ask, he knows the answer, but he has to ask. Then he asks Michael Morse and almost falls over.

"97% of the reason I'm down here is defense," Morse says.

"On days when I'm not playing I'm out here at 9:00am working with [Mariners rep and Manager of the AFL's Peoria Javelinas] Mike Goff taking ground balls. I know I have work to do, but I want to do the work, I want to show people I can play short."

At 6'5" 'playing short' is as tough as it is ironic, but Morse isn't worried. He spreads the credit for his improvement all around. He was acquired by the Mariners in the deal that sent Freddy Garcia to the White Sox, and leaving that organization wasn't easy for Morse. "It was tough to leave because that's the organization that made me a baseball player, and made me a shortstop. I spent a lot of time with Manny Trillo and Raphael Santana, they worked with me all off season last year helping turn me from an athlete into a shortstop. But it was also exciting to come to the Mariners because as a big guy at short I've always looked at Alex Rodriguez because he's almost as tall as me, and the Mariners were the team that brought him along."

There have been comparisons, because of his size and swing, to Richie Sexson, "Yeah, I hear that a lot, I also hear a lot of stuff about Troy Glaus, because he came up as a shortstop and was big like me." Pretty big comparisons, but not big enough for Morse, "I want to be compared to A-Rod. I want to because I want to stay at short, and the Mariners know how to do this, these guys have taken big guys and molded them into shortstops."

Watch Morse in the cage and it becomes pretty obvious why defense is the focus down here. Kid can flat out hit. Morse gets interviewed just before batting practice. He's asked to put on a show. He laughs and then enters the cage. He sprays balls all over the field, left, right, down the lines, straight-away center. Impressive, but not what you'd call a 'show.' He steps out and notices the reporter walking by, "Oh, I promised you a show, hold on."

He jumps back in the cage, two pitches later he hits a ball, check that crushes a ball over the bullpen that lies beyond the outfield fence. Impressive, more so when the reporter realizes he did that to the opposite field. 400 feet? Might have been, might have been more. So anyway, back to the defense.

"He's making real progress. We're just working on him getting more consistent." Mike Goff says later. "He's got all the tools, but now it's all about him getting a million reps out there. We're working on footwork, on taking the right angles." Is he really out there at 9:00 a.m. every morning? Goff laughs, the laugh of a guy who's been losing sleep because he's had to be out on the field at 9:00 a.m. every morning. "Yeah, we're just trying to get him to the point that when a ball is hit in his direction he doesn't have to think, he just reacts."

Go ahead and doubt Michael Morse, you'll just get added to the list of people he's making a point to prove wrong. "The Mariners have not talked to me at all about moving. They believe in me. I just want to crack the bigs as a shortstop. I'll move where ever they want me to move after that, I'll do anything to help the team. The quicker I get to the Majors the quicker I think I'll settle down and be more comfortable. I'm settling in now, and the Mariners have said they've noticed it, noticed me getting more comfortable. That's a good sign for me, I like hearing that they are noticing."

And where might he move after cracking the bigs?

"Well, A-Rod moved to third, that'd be fine."

Morse has the ability, the tools, and the drive. He also has the aspirations and the bat. Go ahead, doubt him.

Phillies in the desert: Dan Giese may be tiring a little. After an impressive start in the AFL, Giese has suffered his last couple of times out. On Tuesday, he was hit for four earned runs in one inning as Phoenix lost to Grand Canyon 12-6. Giese's fall ERA has ballooned to 5.79 on the season… Ryan Howard appears to have lost his homerun stroke. He's stuck on three homeruns, all of which came in the early games of the AFL season. Howard has kept his average up and is currently hitting .378 this fall… Chris Roberson went 1-for-5 Tuesday and was caught stealing again. He has now been thrown out five times in eight stolen base attempts… Carlos Ruiz went 1-for-2 in Tuesday's loss, picking up his third double of the season. He is hitting .286 in 11 games for Phoenix.

Editor's Note: James Renwick is the managing editor of FutureBacks.com and is covering the Arizona Fall League for Scout.com.

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