|Born: May 15, 1981
Drafted: 3rd Round, 89th Overall, 1999 (Twins)
How Acquired: Trade from Twin (for Alex Presley and Duke Welker)
College: New Westminster (BC) HS
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Morneau was one of the better run producers in the majors in his prime years, which lasted from 2006 through mid-2010. He benefited greatly during much of that time from batting behind Joe Mauer. In July 2010, though, Morneau suffered a concussion and the symptoms lingered for an extended period. Since returning, he’s never been the hitter he was before. He’s also had to deal with neck, shoulder, wrist and other injuries.
Morneau at his best was a very good power hitter who hit for average and didn’t strike out excessively. He had excellent plate discipline in his prime, but it’s been borderline since then. He’s usually had large platoon splits: he has a career .896 OPS against RHPs and .711 against LHPs. In recent years it’s been even more pronounced: he had an OPS against LHPs of .569 in 2012 and .536 in 2013 while still with the Twins. He’s solid defensively and doesn’t run well.
Morneau made a brief debut in rookie ball.
The Twins sent Morneau back to the GCL and he pretty much wrecked the place. He divided his time amongst catcher, first and right. He also caught a few games near the end of the season in the advanced rookie level Appalachian League.
The Twins moved Morneau permanently to first — he hasn’t played any other position since, at any level — and he dominated low A for half a season. He continued to hit and control the strike zone well after a mid-season promotion to high A, but his power dropped off. Of course, he’d just turned 20 at that point. He finished the season with a cameo in AA.
Morneau spent the season in AA and hit well without dominating. Baseball America still rated him the 14th best prospect in baseball after the season.
Surprisingly, Morneau opened the season back in AA, where he got off to a fast start and won an early promotion. The Twins called him up to the majors in early June and he didn’t hit well, but wasn’t overwhelmed. He went back to AAA in August but returned to the majors in September.
The Twins were generally slow to go with younger players in those days and they went with Doug Mientkiewicz at first, returning Morneau to AAA. He hit a ton there, got called up in late May, posted a .912 OPS over eight games, and got sent back to AAA. He continued tearing up the level and finally got recalled for good in mid-July. He was the Twins’ best hitter over the remainder of the season.
Morneau had a mediocre season, with a bad August pulling down his numbers.
Morneau had his best full season and won the AL MVP award, mainly on the strength of his 130 RBIs (which didn’t even lead the league). Morneau’s teammate, Joe Mauer, probably would have been a better choice for the award.
Morneau dropped off from the previous season’s heights, but still drove in 111 runs. After the season, Morneau signed a six-year, $80M contract.
Morneau had probably his second-best season, driving in 129 runs.
Through early August, Morneau was having an outstanding season. He had a .980 OPS on August 4, but went into a slump around mid-month. In mid-September he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back and he missed the rest of the season.
Morneau was having his best season when he suffered a concussion as a result of a knee to the head from John McDonald. He missed the entire second half, as the symptoms wouldn’t relent.
Morneau struggled through mid-June, then missed two months after having surgery to correct pinched nerves in his neck. He also missed time with other injuries. At the end of August he suffered a shoulder injury that caused concussion symptoms, keeping him out the rest of the year.
Morneau missed the first half of May with wrist soreness, but otherwise served as the Twins’ regular at first. He bounced back some from 2011, but didn’t get back anywhere close to his earlier levels.
Morneau was hitting much as he had in 2012 through the end of June and figured heavily in trade deadline rumors. A serious slump — he hit 175/266/330 in July — seemingly dampened interest in him and he wasn’t dealt. He hit much better in August, although not nearly as well as some commentators seemed to think. For the month he batted 250/293/543 with nine HRs, which was enough to revive the trade interest. The Pirates acquired him on August 31. He played first and hit cleanup for them in September, except that Clint Hurdle sometimes, but not always, sat him against LHPs for Gaby Sanchez. (On the year he hit just 207/247/278 against LHPs.) Morneau’s time with the Pirates was largely a flop. He played good defense and drew walks, but hit no HRs and drove a paltry three runs in 25 games, then drove in none in six playoff games.
The Pirates have said they’d like to bring Morneau back. What really matters, of course is how badly. Although he’ll have to accept a much lower salary wherever he goes, it’s doubtful whether he’s the right player to fill the Pirates’ 1B hole. He’s clearly just a shell of his former self and disappears offensively for long periods of time. He can’t hit LHPs at all, but because of his prominence as a former MVP, Clint Hurdle might be unwilling to platoon him strictly, which is exactly what needs to be done.
|Signing Bonus: $290,000
MiLB Debut: 1999
MLB Debut: 6/10/2003
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: November 18, 2002
Options Remaining: 0
MLB Service Time: 9.168
|June 2, 1999: Drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 3rd round, 89th overall pick; signed on June 17.
November 18, 2002: Contract purchased by the Minnesota Twins.
August 31, 2013: Traded by the Minnesota Twins to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Alex Presley and a player to be named later.