FanPost

Prospect Smackdown: Davis vs. Freeman vs. Morrison

Hey guys, I'm a regular poster over at Amazin Avenue, I've posted here before but mostly I lurk here from time to time.  So I wrote up this John Sickels-style Smackdown and figured you all might be interested.  Enjoy.

 

With so much of the talk during ST revolving around rising stars, I thought the time was ripe for another Prospect Smackdown.  And where better to focus than first base, with 3 teams in the NL East nearly ready to graduate young first base prospects, all of whom are big, athletic lefties with similar profiles, figuring to anchor their respective lineups for years to come.  As usual, I'll try to be as impartial as possible here.

                                

Prospect Smackdown: Ike Davis vs. Freddie Freeman vs. Logan Morrison

BACKGROUND & INTANGIBLES

Davis:  The son of former Yankee reliever Ron Davis, Ike Davis was drafted 18th overall by the Mets back in 2008 and signed for $1.575M.  This came after a decorated career at Arizona State which included Freshman of the Year, All-Pac 10 & All-American honors and an ASU Team MVP award over fellow Sun Devil Brett Wallace; he was also the first freshman to ever lead the illustrious Pac-10 in RBI's and served as a middle of the order presence (as well as closer) during two National Championship runs.  Ike is known as a hard worker who exudes confidence and is driven to live up to his bloodlines.

Freeman:  Frederick Freeman was a second round draftee (78th overall) by the Braves in 2007, signing for just over $400K.  Freeman was a highly touted high school player out of SoCal, committing to college baseball powerhouse Cal State-Fullerton before being drafted.  He dropped in the draft a bit due to concerns about an 'aloof' approach to the game.  Much like Davis, Freeman was known to play at first and corner OF and even pitched out of the 'pen.  Also like Davis, he is now well-regarded for his work ethic and drive.

Morrison:  Logan Morrison was selected back in the 2005 draft by the Marlins in the (believe it or not) 22nd round (666th overall).  However, the explanation is that Morrison, while a strong high school player out of Louisiana, was not particularly high on national draft boards.  The Marlins selected him as part of the now defunct Draft-and Follow process and Morrison went on to star at Maplewood Community College (Albert's alma mater) then signed for $225K.  Morrison is also known for his solid makeup and good work ethic and, like Davis, is an extremely confident player.

ADVANTAGE:  You really can't go wrong here, they're all hard workers, praised for their good makeup.  I guess you give a nod to the Marlins for saving a ton of dough by effectively utilizing the DFE process but as far as the players go this one has got to be even.

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PHYSICALITY & TOOLS

Davis:  Ike is 6'4", 215lbs, a lefty thrower and hitter, born on March 22, 1987.  His best tool is his raw power as witnessed in this recent ST slam; his smooth uppercut stroke (view below) affords him light-tower power.  On the flipside, it can get long, leading to a lot of strikeouts and he doesn't often drive the ball to the opposite field.  Davis' other plus tool is his arm strength; as the ASU closer Ike worked in the low 90's.  He possesses a projectable frame but is thought of by scouts as more of a baseball player than a raw athlete due to his below average footspeed.  Though needing more consistency, Davis is considered a natural at first with the potential for plus defense.  Davis' only major injury came in '07 when he was forced to undergo wrist surgery to remove bone chips.

Freeman:  Freeman is listed at 6'5", 220lbs (though Mike Newman, of the invaluable Scouting the Sally thinks more like 6'2"-6'3").  He's a lefty hitter and righty thrower and he was born on September 12, 1989.  Freeman's best tool is his raw hitting ability.  He possesses a superb mixture of contact, developing power and strong plate discipline which combined with his compact stroke (view below) leads to far fewer strikeouts than most power hitters.  At 20, Freeman has a big frame with the potential for more strength as he matures, though he will never be mistaken for a speedster.  Like Davis, he possesses a power arm, hitting 90+mph on the mound in HS.  He is an average defender at first and while he's been mostly healthy, Freeman was slowed by a nagging wrist injury during the '09 season.

 Morrison:  Morrison is 6'4" (I've also seen 6'2"), 245lbs, a lefty thrower and hitter, born on August 25, 1987.  Depending who you ask, Morrison's top tool is either his tremendous plate disciple, his potentially plus power or his excellent raw hitting ability.  Though a little long, Morrison has a nice level, line drive cut (view below) which explains his tremendous 20% LD rate between '08-'09 (compared to 17% for Davis & 15% for Freeman) and allows him to drive the ball to all fields.  What's more, Morrison accumulated nearly 20 more walks than strikeouts in '09, showcasing his superb on-base skills.  Bulkier than the other two, Morrison is not known for his defensive range at first nor in the OF, though he also has a very strong arm and his hands have reportedly gotten a lot better since he was drafted.  Morrison has been very healthy but was sidelined early in '09 after suffering a fracture in his wrist.  Noticing a trend here?

ADVANTAGE:  Davis is probably the best athlete and fielder of the bunch with the most raw power but Morrison has stronger pure hitting skills and far better plate discipline.  Freeman is a mixture of both so I think he gets the nod here.

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PERFORMANCE & SKILLS

Davis:  Ike started his pro career in '08 with a strange stint in the NY-Penn League where he went homerless in 215 ab's.  He still drove the ball exceptionally well (18.5% LD rate vs. 17.3% in '09) but needed to get that FB rate up.  Fortunately he did just that in '09 jumping from 34% flyballs in '08 to 43% in '09 which led to 19 hrs, while batting a robust .309 in his first taste of AA and following that with a stellar performance (.341/.394/.565) in the highly competitive AFL.  On the negative side, he struck out 112 times which when coupled with only 61 walks gives cause to worry about his AVG and OBP as he moves up the ladder.  Add in his poor platoon split for the trifecta (only .242/.301/.371 against lefties in '09) and suddenly there's cause for some concern.

Freeman:  Freeman answered pre-draft concerns about his "energy for the game" by holding his own in the GCL at 17, then bursting onto the scene in full-season ball in '08.  Freeman mashed 18 hr's while batting .316 and set the Rome Braves single season hits record.  His '09 wasn't so explosive as mid-summer wrist problems sapped his power (.405 SLG vs .524 in '08) but he continued to cut his impressive strikeout total to only 60 vs. 37 walks.  Freeman also improved his performance against lefties in '09, with a difference of just .003 points in his OPS splits.  He will need to prove that it was mostly the wrist, not advanced competition, that slowed him in AA (as well as the AFL).

Morrison:  After an uninspiring pro debut in '06, Morrison too burst into full-season baseball, blasting 23 homers in '07 and exhibiting the ability to drive the ball to all fields (view below). He followed with another impressive performance in '08 where he hit 13 hrs in the pitcher-friendly FSL and batted .332 with a very strong K:BB ratio.  Last season, he improved even more in that regard posting a very impressive 63 walks to only 46 strikeouts.  However, Morrison's power numbers took a step back in '09 as he slugged only .442 with 8 hrs.  Many feel, like Freeman, he too was a victim of wrist woes however, some worry that his consistently low FB rates (33% career vs. Freeman's 38% and Davis' 40%) coupled with high GB rates point to a 15-20 hr hitter, not a 30+ hr stud.  He too has had big problems with lefties to this point.

         4429021039_16c8f92623_m_medium      4429021265_7667f1a3a3_m_medium       4429786092_9412f7496b_m_medium

Advantage:  You can't punish Freeman and Morrison who both had nagging injuries holding them back, but ultimately Davis put on a far more impressive overall performance in the ever important Double-A litmus test so I have to give him the edge here.

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PROJECTION: 

Davis:  John Sickels (of the excellent SB Nation Minor League Ball Blog) called him "Lyle Overbay with an excellent glove."  I suppose that's a pretty good middle ground comp, though I think that's shortchanging his power a bit.  I'd say his absolute ceiling is a great fielder, very good power, lots of K's and low AVG, basically a Carlos Pena-lite type player.  Worst case, he can't hit lefties at all and strikeouts kill him:  Mike Jacobs.

Freeman:  At age 20 you've got to figure he's got more room to develop.  So to me, his ceiling is along the same trail that Joey Votto is blazing: 25-30 hrs, .300+ AVG, nearly .400 OBP, equal batting splits and solid defense at first.  He'll have to work on taking some more walks but it could definitely happen.  More pessimistic, his power stalls out and he's a lefty version of Conor Jackson.

Morrison:  His bat looks real, his plate discipline is impressive, It all depends on how you view his power.  He clearly drives the ball to all fields better than the other two but will that equate to homers or a lot of doubles in the left center gap? If he develops like Marlins fans think, his ceiling looks a lot like Justin Morneau.  However, if you're worried about those low FB rates he tops out as a 18-24hr guy in the majors, think Sean Casey.  If the HR power of '07 doesn't reappear whatsoever, think James Loney.

Advantage:  This really depends what you're looking for.  I'd say Morrison's skills are more of a sure thing to translate while Freeman's realistic ceiling is higher.  If all goes right for Morrison he may challenge that idea but to me Freeman's greater room for improvement due to age clinches it.

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SUMMARY:

2009 Cumulative StatsAVGOPSHRK:BB
Davis (A+/AA) .299 .905 19 109:56
Freeman (A+/AA) .278 .766 8 59:37
Morrison (AA) .277 .813 8 46:63

Let's go to the Prospect Rankings:  In their most recent Top 100 BA sees Morrison ahead at #20, Freeman at #32 and Ike at #62.  Though all are ranked at 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. 

Prospect Guru John Sickels rates Morrison as a B+ and attributes the power slippage to his injury.  Ditto Freddie Freeman but he raises development concerns.  He gives Ike a B but says he sees more "solid regular than future star".

BP/Kevin Goldstein's Future Shock list interestingly places Morrison and Freeman at #51 and #52 respectively, Davis at #87.

If I'm starting an organization today and I need to pick a cornerstone first baseman, I take Freddie Freeman.  And my main determining factor is age.  They've all put up impressive performances at a high level, each exhibits differing yet very valuable skills and it's very interesting all of the similarities linking the three.  But the biggest variation to me is the fact that Freeman has 2 more years to develop beyond Davis and Morrison yet he is already at or near their same levels of performance.  Next I'd probably take Morrison for his superior raw hitting skills but IMO Davis' seemingly wide gap in defense makes this closer than the above rankings portray.  The funny thing is that this comparison is close enough that any of these guys could easily end up as the best or worst of the three.  However it shakes out, it should be a lot of fun to watch these three guys graduate into the NL East in the next year or so. 

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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