Washington Nationals 2011: Key to Improved Offense Written in Michael Morse Code

Ryan C. SmithContributor IIIMarch 31, 2011

Michael Morse is a .291 hitter in parts of 6 ML seasons.
Michael Morse is a .291 hitter in parts of 6 ML seasons.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Washington's new left fielder has had an interesting journey in his 11-year pro career.

Drafted in 2000 by the White Sox, Michael Morse has been traded twice and has never gotten the chance to start a full season at any one or multiple positions due to injury and what most would consider lackluster defense at multiple positions.

After having one of the strongest springs I have seen since the Nationals moved to DC, Morse will finally be handed the keys to a starting position on Opening Day. He truly is the key for the Nationals offense in terms of seeing a truly noticeable improvement in run production.

In short, the Nationals' offensive losses, Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham, were met with the acquisitions of 126-million-dollar man Jayson Werth and Mr. Reliable in Adam LaRoche (he has hit exactly 25 home runs each of the past three seasons), but at best that leaves the Nationals with a wash.

Now enter a red-hot Michael Morse, who was already an impressive-hitting part-time player for much of last season, as he hit .298 with 15 home runs and 41 RBI to go along with a .519 slugging percentage in parts of 98 games.

There are two concerns with Morse though. The first is his health. He had season-ending surgeries with the Mariners in 2006 and 2008 for his knee and a torn labrum respectively. The other concern is perhaps the most obvious. Can he handle a full season at the big-league level and be productive enough to keep the job?

With the season kicking off tomorrow, all of the burning questions we all have will begin to be answered. But if Morse can even be a .260-.270-type guy with 70-plus RBI and play passable defense, then the Nats will truly have a lineup to be feared, and that will surprise all those who haven't already taken notice of this up-and-coming franchise.