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Justin Morneau earns accolades on offense and defense in first season with Colorado

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Justin Morneau had his best season in years despite widespread belief that he could never put up these kinds of numbers again. He won the batting title, but his defense may be his biggest contribution on the field.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Moments after the Colorado Rockies signed Justin Morneau -- still in the wake of the Dexter Fowler trade -- I wrote as a part of a "best case scenario":

"I'm putting the legitimate over/under at 1.5 fWAR for Justin Morneau in 2014. I'll take the over and wouldn't call anyone foolish for taking the under."

He posted an fWAR of 2.5. Turns out I was underselling ... on Justin Morneau at least.

What happened

I went on in that article to say:

"I think the safest bet to address [Dexter Fowler's lost on base ability] is the newly acquired Justin Morneau.

If you average his last two good seasons (2009 and 2010) and his last two seasons in general, Morneau's BB% comes to 10.775 and his OBP to .363 ... Over their whole careers, Fowler strikes out at a 22.3 percent clip, while Morneau sits at a cool 15.6 percent.  "

Morneau added an OBP of .364 to his batting-title-winning .319 average and struck out only 10.9 percent of the time -- a career best mark by four percentage points in a pretty illustrious contact-making career. I'm not sure which part of the altitude or big outfield is responsible for him making so much contact. I'll have to check on that.

That all amounted to a 123 wRC+ which was a lot better than those who were expecting the same injury-riddled Justin Morneau that the Pirates decided was expendable.

His two biggest contributions, though, were his ability to hit on the road and his defense. Somehow, as a Colorado Rockie, Justin Morneau managed to post a higher wRC+ number on the road (133) than at home (111) and also earned a nomination for the 2014 Gold Glove at first base.

These are the two reasons why I disagree with our captain Bryan Kilpatrick when he says the Rockies should trade Morneau. I think road hitting and infield defense are two areas where the Rockies must be elite in order to succeed, though I'd bet Bryan's position also involves believing less in the Rockies chances for contention next season than I do which is another can of cookies.

2014 grade: A+

He won the batting title, was highlighted as one of the three best defensive first baseman in the NL, and adds a much needed element of leadership to the clubhouse especially now with Michael Cuddyer gone. The only way he could have had a better season is if he won the Gold Glove. You show me a writer who predicted Morneau would have this kind of year and I'll downgrade him to an "A."

I was on the high end of the spectrum and he far exceeded my expectations.

What to expect in 2015

Hopefully more of the same. I'd like to see Morneau back and in his same role and producing near the same level. I would expect some regression as is natural but his profile is a perfect fit for this team. His ability to hit the ball to all fields and not strike out make him more reliable and consistent than even Carlos Gonzales or Troy Tulowitzki.

He avoids slumps, hits on the road -- which the Rockies need the way people marooned on a desert island need water -- and is a key final piece to the "pitch-to-ground-ball-contact-and-into-the-best-infield-defense-in-baseball" strategy.

My only concern heading into this season is that he would never be this kind of player again due to his injury and he proved that the injury is no longer a concern. Next year will be his age 34 season which makes me think he's got at least two more years of this kind of production before age becomes a major factor as long as he is relatively healthy.

If that's the case, I would very much like him in purple, please.