It wasn't that long ago Brewers fans were screaming for Hunter Morris. Who could blame them when the likes of Yuniesky Betancourt, Blake Lalli, and Alex Gonzalez were getting time at first base. However the now 26 year old first baseman never could recreate his breakout 2012 season.
In 571 plate appearances in AA he hit 303/357/563 (.413 wOBA) with 28 home runs. He was named Brewers minor league player of the year and it seemed like time was the only thing keeping him out of Milwaukee. The observant fan might have seen what came next had they noticed his BABIP.
The next season at AAA he hit 247/310/457 (.336 wOBA) with 24 home runs. Those numbers are more in line with his production prior to 2012. In 2011 at A+ he hit 279/299/461 (.338 wOBA) with 19 home runs.
His BABIP in 2011 (.289) and 2013 (.280) are basically the same. In 2012 he had a .342 BABIP. A 60 point spike in BABIP seems to be behind his "breakout" season. A 60 point spike in BABIP is unsustainable. This much was proven in 2013 when it returned to normal and correspondingly his production dropped. So it's a safe bet that the "breakout" was unsustainable as well.
The Brewers must have thought so because even though Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay were floundering offensively in the middle of a playoff hunt that ultimately crumbled due to lack of offense, they never called him up. Though I do have to point out that Morris fractured his arm in mid-August. Still, the offense at 1B was anemic from the start of the season.
Instead the Brewers called up Jason Rogers and Matt Clark (who was acquired to replace Hunter Morris in AAA after the injury). Both can play first base and both arguably offer more offensively than Morris. Since both are slated to start the season in AAA there didn't appear to be much room left for Hunter Morris.
All of this culminated in today's trade of Hunter Morris to the Pirates for a player to be named later. One might argue that by trading him to a division rival the Brewers are further exhibiting their lack of confidence in his ability to contribute at the major league level. That opinion could be once again reinforced when we learn what the return is.
For his sake I wish I could say a change of scenery will be good for Morris, but I'm not sure that's the case with the Pirates. Currently Pedro Alvarez is manning the position at the major league level. Then at the minor league level they have Josh Bell who is a much better hitter and all around prospect.
This is by no means the end of the road for Hunter Morris. At his age he is still young enough that he could figure things out. Pedro Alvarez isn't so good that there is no way Morris could play his way on the Pirates roster this year. Whatever happens I do wish him luck.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs