In the last 21 years, nine players have regularly called first base their home for the Tampa Bay Rays (and Devil Rays). When compared to the ballclub’s messy turnover rate at catcher, first base has enjoyed relative stability. In fact, selecting the top five Rays to play the position was easy. Ranking their individual performances proved a lot trickier. Relying on Baseball-Reference.com for the numbers and my own opinionated heart for the rest, here are one fan’s picks, from worst to first, for the High-Five of Tampa Bay First Basemen.
Following in James Loney’s wake, both on this list and at first base is a man we all know as Lo-Mo for the Tampa Bay Rays.
No. 4: Logan Morrison
Home runs: 52
Batting average: .243
Fielding percentage: .993
If James Loney was all quiet intensity for the Rays at first base, Logan Morrison was all loud bat.
Arriving in Tampa Bay through a November 2015 trade with the Seattle Mariners, Morrison won the battle for first base in spring training of 2016. Loney, the Rays’ first baseman for the past three seasons, was released. And Morrison was handed the bulk of the playing time at first in a planned platoon system with Steve Pearce. Let the offense begin!
Morrison played 107 games his first season in Tampa Bay. He committed only four errors in 612 chances for a respectable .994 fielding percentage. Offensively, Lo-Mo did fine. Not spectacular, but definitely okay. The Kansas City, MO native hit .238 at the plate with 14 HR and 43 RBI on 84 hits. However, he struck out approximately 25% of his at-bats. That stat stung when he only managed to muscle 14 balls out of the park.
In 2017, Steve Pearce was gone and the platoon experiment at first ended. Morrison was given the everyday duties and promptly exploded at the plate. In the 149 games he played in ’17, Morrison hit 38 HR on 126 hits, driving in 85 Rays along the way. While still striking out about one of every four times at bat, Morrison added 81 walks to his season sheet (a stat that mitigates many sins).
Morrison’s improvement was absurd. He passed his 2016 HR total of 14 before June of 2017. At the mid-season break, he had 24 homers. By all rights, Morrison should have made the All-Star team for the American League. He didn’t. The snubbing hurt and Morrison let the world know… yes, James Loney had, indeed, left the Trop.
By year’s end, Morrison had put together a tremendous offensive season with a .868 OPS and a 3.7 WAR. Defensively, he’d committed eight errors in 1,082 chances for a .993 fielding percentage. All in all, it was a fantastic season.
Unfortunately, as what often happens with the Rays, the organization lost Morrison to free agency in November 2017. He signed with the Minnesota Twins but played in less than 100 games in 2018, posting only a .185 BA.
Was Logan Morrison, like Rays’ catcher Dioner Navarro, a one-season wonder?
It’s much too early to tell. Morrison is only 31 and should have many MLB seasons ahead of him. But no matter what the future holds for Lo-Mo, his 2017 campaign with Tampa Bay was loud at the plate and great fun in the stands. For this, Logan Morrison has earned spot No. 4 on the High-Five of Ray’s First Basemen.
Tomorrow, defense again takes center stage as No. 3 is revealed.