Sleeper sluggers: Mike Morse has potential 

March, 17, 2011
By now most of us know the story of Toronto Blue Jays utility player Jose Bautista emerging from obscurity to hit 54 home runs last season. His questionable track record heading into the 2010 season seemed to suggest that a big season was impossible. However, Bautista did, as the wise owners who drafted him like to point out while using 20-20 hindsight, slug 10 of his 13 home runs in 2009 in the month of September, a harbinger for some to believe there was big-time power lurking.

[+] EnlargeMike  Morse
Andrew Weber/US PresswireMike Morse is a career .291 hitter, with 21 homers and 88 RBIs in 618 at-bats for the M's and Nationals.
So it is that I paid particularly close attention this past September to see if any veteran hitters suddenly provided power that could indicate a breakout season to come. I also looked to see if any under-the-radar type of player was doing so. One player who stood out to me is Washington Nationals outfielder Mike Morse, a guy I tagged last summer and discussed in my NL East wrap-up blog. To some, it appeared the team's signing of Jayson Werth ended Morse's chances for 500-plus at-bats, but that doesn't match with what Washington's decision-makers are saying at the moment.

"If Opening Day was tomorrow, he certainly would be our [starting] left fielder," general manager Mike Rizzo said. Manager Jim Riggleman was also pretty effusive about Morse, who is tied for the big league lead this spring with five home runs and is hitting .429, with a .914 slugging percentage. Yes, we preach how little spring stats matter, but if Morse's fine numbers earn him a starting job, they certainly matter. "Mike's winning the job," Riggleman told The Washington Post. "[He] is making a statement that, 'I'm the guy.' We welcome that. We're not looking to platoon. I'm just reacting to what I see. He's just played so well."