BRENT MOREL, THIRD BASEMAN
|Born: April 21, 1987
Drafted: 3rd Round, 86th Overall, 2008 (White Sox)
How Acquired: Claimed off waivers (from Blue Jays)
College: California Polytechnic State University
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Morel was the White Sox’ regular third baseman in 2011, but recurring back soreness led to an abysmal 2012 season. Although he has good size, he’s always been more of a line drive hitter than a power hitter. He’s generally made good contact, but his walk rates have been low in AAA and the majors. He’s had large platoon splits in the minors. Morel has played third almost exclusively as a pro and is considered good there. He doesn’t run well, but he’s had some high stolen base totals in the minors. The Pirates claimed Morel after the Jays designated him for assignment in February 2014.
After a brief stay in rookie ball, Morel played third in low A for about six weeks and put up solid numbers across the board.
Morel put up solid numbers again, without dominating, in a full season at high A. He did show surprising base stealing ability.
Morel had something of a breakout season split between AA and AAA. A lot of it, though, was attributable to high BABIPs of .385 (AA) and .363 (AAA). His walk rate plummeted in AAA and his power production was mainly in the form of doubles. The White Sox called him up in early September and he got a fair amount of playing time in place of the struggling Mark Teahen.
Morel spent the entire season in the majors and was the Sox’ regular at third for most of the year, although Teahen and Omar Vizquel spent time there as well. Morel struggled at the plate, with just a .588 OPS going into September, but he hit eight of his ten HRs in that last month.
Morel began experiencing back stiffness in spring training and got off to a dismal start in the majors. He went on the disabled list in May with a lumbar sprain, then went on a rehab assignment in AAA late in the month, but he continued to have issues. He eventually was sidelines for two months and started another rehab in high A. The White Sox eventually optioned him to AAA and he did not return to the majors.
The White Sox optioned Morel to AAA in spring training and he spent the season there, except for brief callups in June and July. He bounced back somewhat, but not entirely, in AAA. It’s at least encouraging that he managed to steal some bases, as he’d completely stopped running when he was hurt. The Sox put him on waivers in December and Toronto claimed him, but the Jays put him on waivers in February.
Morel played third for most of the season for Indianapolis. He had a miserable first half, posting a 231/301/319 line. He nevertheless got called up for two weeks starting in late July, and again briefly in mid-August. The Pirates also brought him up for September. In between callups, he got hot at the AAA level, batting 367/418/510 in 25 second-half games. That didn’t extend to the majors, where he was overmatched. He did play well defensively at third. The Pirates played him at second a half dozen times (giving him eight games there in his career) in AAA in an apparent effort to increase his versatility. He also saw a couple innings at first in the minors and majors, giving him six minor league games and 7.2 major league innings at the position in his career. (For some odd reason, the Pirates habitually gave the ability to play first as a reason for having Morel on the roster.)
Morel hasn’t shown much with the bat since 2010. Some of that was probably the back problems, but he didn’t dominate before 2010 and much of his success that year was attributable to unsustainable BABIPs. With his weak bat and lack of experience at infield positions other than third, it’s very difficult to understand the Pirates’ continued interest in Morel, but they have a long-standing obsession with having veterans, no matter how bad their track records, on the bench rather than younger players. It may seem a harmless obsession given that Morel only got 39 ABs with the Pirates in 2014, but the team’s three no-offense utility players — Morel, Jayson Nix and Michael Martinez — combined to go 0-for-19 during the seven-game August losing streak that effectively cost the Pirates the division title.
When the deadline arrived for adding players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft, the Pirates outrighted Morel to AAA to create space. He’ll return on a minor league contract in 2015; in fact, the Pirates invited him to major league spring training. They also signed Deibinson Romero, an experienced minor league third baseman who at least offers the virtue of not yet having proven that he can’t hit major league pitching, which can’t be said of Morel. Judging by the way they were used in spring training, though, Morel will get most of the AAA playing time at third.
UPDATE: Morel got off to a terrible start in AAA, while Romero was easily the team’s best hitter, so Romero eventually took over a slight majority of the playing time. In an extremely ill-advised move, though, the Pirates sold Romero’s contract to a Korean team. When Jordy Mercer got hurt in July, the Pirates called Morel up, a move that constituted an indictment of their management of their positional depth. He wasn’t around for long, though, as the team designated him for assignment when it acquired Aramis Ramirez.
|2015: Major league minimum
2014: Major league minimum
|Signing Bonus: $440,000
MiLB Debut: 2008
MLB Debut: 9/7/2010
MiLB FA Eligible: 2014
MLB FA Eligible: N/A
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/3/2010
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2012, 2013, 2014)
MLB Service Time: 2.049
|June 5, 2008: Drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 3rd round, 86th overall; signed on June 16.
September 3, 2010: Contract purchased by the Chicago White Sox.
December 23, 2013: Claimed off waivers from the Chicago White Sox by the Toronto Blue Jays.
February 21, 2014: Designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays.
February 24, 2014: Claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
November 20, 2014: Outrighted to AAA by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
July 20, 2015: Called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
July 25, 2015: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.