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First base profile: Justin Morneau should be a candidate to platoon with Wilin Rosario in 2015

What can we expect from Justin Morneau in 2015?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After struggling his last three seasons in MLB, Justin Morneau revived his career with the Colorado Rockies in 2014. Morneau won the NL batting title, hitting .319/.364/.496 with 17 HR, 82 RBI and a 123 wRC+, his best line since 2010. What was even more impressive is that Morneau turned in significantly better park adjusted statistics on the road in 2014. His 133 road wRC+ was 22 points higher than his 111 home wRC+, showing that his revival was not solely due to Coors Field park effects (such as the ball not moving/breaking as much as normal parks).

Morneau credited the move away from Target Field and into a hitter’s park in helping him revive his approach and production. Morneau told the Denver Post:

"Coors got me back to where I wanted to be," Morneau said. "I got away from my strengths over the last few years. Getting back into a hitter's park (as opposed to the Twins' Target Field), has me using the whole field again."

Morneau remembers an April series against the White Sox at Coors Field as the starting point.

"I hit a couple of balls the opposite way, to left field, that carried over the left fielder's head," he said. "I realized I could use the big ballpark to my advantage.

"That's carried over the whole season, home or away. ... It's nice to feel comfortable using the whole field again."

Morneau only struck out in 11% of his PA, the lowest number of his career and 16th best in baseball. He had the 42nd highest hard hit rate in baseball at 19.2%. An interesting statistic on Morneau was his batting average on hard hit balls in 2014. Morneau hit .615 on hard hit balls, 85 points under the average of .700. Had Morneau had average luck on hard hit balls, his production would have been even better in 2014.

Platoon splits

Morneau has been consistently poor against LHP since 2011, and despite the revival in 2014, he still put together platoon splits:

Against

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

wRC+

RHP

.341

.389

.538

.927

141

LHP

.254

.288

.377

.665

68

In 724 PA against LHP since 2011, Morneau has had very poor results.

Year

AVG

OBP

SLG

OPS

HR

wRC+

2014

.254

.288

.377

.665

3

68

2013

.207

.247

.278

.525

2

41

2012

.232

.271

.298

.569

2

54

2011

.144

.189

.211

.401

1

6

Morneau needs a platoon partner, and there's no better candidate on the Rockies than lefty masher Wilin Rosario. In 379 career PA against LHP, Rosario has a 1.009 OPS and a 159 wRC+. Platooning him with Morneau would be a smart thing for the Rockies to do.

Injury risk

Platooning Morneau would also give his body a rest. He appears to be over his well documented concussion issues, but he spent time on the DL in 2014 with a neck strain and had the injury pop up a few times throughout the season. There has been some speculation that the high altitude in Colorado causes injury problems for players. The Denver Post wrote,

Fans know that at Coors Field, batted balls travel farther, curveballs break less, runs come in bunches and earned run averages skyrocket. But the high altitude also causes sore muscles, saps energy and disrupts sleep patterns.

The Rockies have been plagued by injuries to their best players in recent years, so the speculation sounds like it has merit.

What to expect from Morneau in 2015?

Much of this depends on whether or not the Rockies run a strict platoon at 1B. If they do, Morneau will turn in a strong average and OPS, but his HR, R and RBI will be less than what you want out of a 1B.

Morneau does come with risk; he's going to be 34 years old and showed signs brittleness last year. I wouldn't draft Morneau as my top 1B, but if your league has extra IF or utility slots, Morneau would be a good player to roster for that position.