Wednesday, December 12, 2007
All Undervalued Team: Morgan Ensberg, 3b
In honor of the fact that he was non-tendered this week, Morgan Ensberg gets the third baseman on the All Undervalued Team. Actually, he's long been one of my favorite players, so he would've gotten the nod anyway, but the fact that he has been cut loose just makes him an even better bargain.
Ensberg attended USC and played the hot corner on the 1998 USC championship team. He's still the only player in USC history to post a 20 homer and 20 stolen base season. Ensberg was joined on the team by future teammates Jason Lane and Eric Munson.
The Astros drafted Ensberg with the 272nd overall pick in the 9th round of the 1998 draft.
Unfortunately, Ensberg was also involved in one of the most unfortunate incidents in recent baseball history. On March 3rd, 2000, Morgan Ensberg, Keith Ginter, Derek Nicholson, Mike Rose, Eric Cole, and Aaron Miles were held at gunpoint in their minor league hotel room by armed robbers. All but Miles were bound hand and foot with plastic ties, had duct tape placed over their mouths, and blankets placed over their heads by the robbers in Ensberg's hotel room.
The robbers went from person to person taking their valuables when they heard Aaron Miles return to his adjacent room. They told the players that they'd be back soon with company and they left to get Miles. When they left, Rose was able to slip out of his plastic ties and lock the door behind them. Ensberg was also able to wriggle free of his ties, permanently scarring his wrists in the process, and call the police.
When the robbers heard the sirens, one jumped out of the second story window and fled, but the other forced Miles back into his room at gunpoint. The police escorted Ensberg and the others to safety, but the second gunman held Miles at gunpoint for 25 minutes. Miles, the son of a heavyweight boxer, took matters into his own hands. He attacked the robber and ended up wrestling over the gun when a SWAT team member broke through a window shooting the robber.
Thankfully, all the players escaped unharmed, but Ensberg still carries physical and emotional scars.
Ensberg is one of the streakiest offensive players around, but when he's on, he's very good. And, when he's off, he's still able to contribute with his secondary offensive skills.
When Ensberg is going well, he has power, patience, and the ability to hit for average. In 2005, Ensberg was undeniably going well, as he posted a line of .283/.388/.557/.945 with 36 homeruns, 86 runs, 101 RBI, and 85 walks.
However, that was the high point and his performance has been very volatile ever since. Despite the inconsistent performance, Ensberg still boasts an impressive career line of .265/.366/.476/.842. He has an impressive .131 BB/PA, sees 3.92 pitches per plate appearance, and on average hits a homerun every 19.5 At Bats.
On June 9, 2006, Ensberg tore a tendon in his shoulder and hasn't ever been able to get back on track. He suffered through substandard second half of 2006 and a disappointing 2007 season. However, he was also a bit unlucky in 2007, as he posted an impressive line drive percentage of 23% with Houston and 30% with San Diego. It's difficult to say how much the shoulder injury has impacted his performance, but he could still bounce back and be a very productive player in 2008.
At the plate. Ensberg seems a bit mechanical. He's not the most natural or graceful athlete and has a tendency to over think things at times. However, he's got a good, solid swing.
He has a small stride, an explosive hip rotation which provides good power, a fairly compact swing, and maintains good balance throughout. He can get pull happy, which makes him susceptible to breaking pitches on the outer half.
Ensberg has all the tools to be an impact offensive player, but time will tell if he can pull it together to get his career back on track. If his struggles were due to his shoulder injury, then he's got a good chance of bouncing back. But, only time will tell if it was the shoulder injury that was slowing him down.
On defense, Ensberg has very good range and rates in the upper echelon of third basemen defensively. He also has soft hands and an accurate arm, so his fielding percentage is solid. He makes the plays he supposed to make and his range allows him to reach balls that many others wouldn't.
Ensberg is currently 32, so his best defensive years may be behind him, but he's still got the ability to be a good, solid defensive player.
Time will tell whether Ensberg can bounce back to his peak level of performance, but he's the type of player who's worth rolling the dice on. Even if he doesn't bounce back, he'd still be a quality option to have on the bench.
If things break right, then Ensberg could flip the switch and again become an impact player who combines power, patience, and a good batting average.