In Sunday’s series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Cleveland Indians staved off Joe Maddon’s club from the large contributions of Nyjer Morgan going 3-for-4 with a homer. Predominately a center fielder, Morgan is inexperienced in left field, but manager Terry Francona would surely be more confident in Morgan than utility infielder Mike Aviles defensively. Since Morgan’s first season in 2008, he has played 99 games at the corner outfield position, with 349 at-bats hitting .318.
Being able to flex Morgan into left field when Michael Brantley or Michael Bourn are taking a day off, or hung with an injury, would give the Indians yet another opportunity to profit from the 33-year-old’s services.
Francona should be looking for any excuse to plug Morgan into the lineup as the veteran is hitting .341/.429/.439. His .3 WAR in just 14 games played has been made possible by a wOBA of .387, 151 wRC+ and 13.5% walk percentage in 52 plate appearances with the Wahoos. Although his UZR sits at -2.8, those fielding and positional adjustment ratings will turn over as he has always been a well above average fielder (career 51.2 UZR). Morgan has a natural eye for the ball and the wheels to aid that sixth sense.
With such a crowded 25-man roster, Francona needs more time to see whether Morgan’s production is temporary or sustainable. Come September, once the roster inflates to 40 players, Tony Plush will be able to make his case for a potential postseason roster spot with an additional dozen or so games playing in left on his resume.
The Tribe are one of the most versatile teams in baseball as they have played seven players in the outfield, eight in the infield and three at catcher. Aside from his bubbling personality, featuring his alter ego Tony Plush, Morgan is a perfect fit because of the characteristics of his game that fit the bill of Francona’s scheme.