We’ve been rough on Nyjer Morgan here at HBT, criticizing the Nationals outfielder for various on-field altercations, horrendous base-stealing, and his overall ineptitude last season.
I’m sure annoying bloggers isn’t a particularly big concern for Morgan, but now Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals may be getting sick of him too.
According to Kilgore the Nationals may go with Rick Ankiel as their starting center fielder, using Roger Bernadina as his backup, and option Morgan to Triple-A, where he hasn’t played since mid-2008.
Kilgore calls that “only speculation” and it would certainly be a bold move, because whatever you think of Morgan’s value at this point Ankiel is hardly a good everyday option in center field offensively or defensively. He’s hit just .232 with a .686 OPS during the past two seasons and Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as 8.7 runs below average per 150 games in center field.
In other words, if the Nationals are even giving serious thought to starting Ankiel in center field they must really be disillusioned with Morgan. Quite a fall for a guy who hit .351 in 49 games after coming over in a midseason deal two years ago.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.