In 45 games this spring, Brent Morel is hitting .326 with two doubles and a home run. That's the good news. The bad news is that his on-base percentage is also .326, the product of Morel not taking a single walk in the Cactus League.
It doesn't really matter that Morel is hitting .326. What matters is how he got to that point, and the lack of walks may not bode well for his regular-season outlook.
Through Morel's first 117 plate appearances last year, he didn't take a walk. He had a .237 batting average and a .566 OPS with just one home run. Morel took his first walk of the season on Memorial Day, and then proceeded to walk once in the months of June and July. His OPS wallowed below .600 through the end of August, although he showed signs of improvement toward the end of the month, taking three walks after Aug. 20.
Morel exploded in September, hitting eight home runs with an .893 OPS. More importantly, he focused on driving the ball and being more patient, which led to 15 walks in 103 plate appearances. The formula, while not exact, appears simple: if Morel is taking walks, he's going to be hitting well.
"I was just caught up trying to put the ball in play and just kinda move guys over and do that kind of stuff," Morel said of his April-August approach at SoxFest in January. "Toward the end, I relaxed a little bit and was more selective and patient up there. That helped me out."
Two things to glean from that quote: First, Morel certainly understands that patience will help drive results, and second, maybe it's best for Morel to not be hitting No. 2 in the lineup.
If he's hitting second, Morel would probably go back to concentrating on putting the ball in play and moving runners along instead of being a more productive offensive player. That's how two-hole hitters are viewed across the board in the majors -- as guys who can do the "little things," like handling the bat. Given what he did in September, it may be best for Morel to hit lower in the order, where he doesn't have to think about those things.
And maybe his lack of spring walks is a product of hitting No. 2. Of course, he hasn't taken any walks hitting elsewhere in the order, but maybe it's worth noting he did go 2-3 with a home run Tuesday hitting sixth.
Wherever Morel hits, though, he shouldn't try to just put the ball in play and move runners over. Given he's been tabbed as a breakout star for 2012, doing so would be a waste of potential.