Fast-rising first baseman among those set to start 2013 season with Sounds

Sunday, March 31, 2013 at 9:16pm

Hunter Morris might not be the Milwaukee Brewers' top prospect. No one in the team's system was any better last season, however.

The 24-year-old first baseman was the Robin Yount Performance Award winner as the organization's player of the year as well as the Southern League's most valuable player and a minor league Gold Glove winner and in his first full season at Class AA Huntsville.

Saturday, he was one of 25 players named the Nashville Sounds' tentative 2013 opening day roster.

The decision represents another step up for the 2010 fourth-round draft pick out of Auburn and gives the Sounds four of the Brewers' top 10 overall prospects for the start of the 2013 season. The other three are pitchers Tyler Thornburg (No. 2) and Johnny Hellweg (No. 6) and second baseman Scooter Gennett (No. 8). Morris is rated No. 4. Of those four, only Thornburg, who features a top-notch fastball, has spent time with Nashville.

In all, the current roster includes nine players from the 2012 Sounds' roster.

Morris' promotion will cause last year's most valuable player, Sean Halton, to move from first base to right field.

Halton had 17 home runs and 57 RBIs (both team-highs) in 119 games for Nashville last season. He hit .274, the lowest full-season average of his professional career.

Morris hit .303 with 28 him runs and 113 RBIs in 136 games for Huntsville. He was the Southern League's leader in hits, extra-base hits, home runs, RBIs, slugging percentage and total bases. He was a mid-season and postseason all-star and a two-time player of the week.

He did not have a hit in his first 13 spring training at-bats but had three in his next eight, when the Brewers relied more on their regular players. Whatever his struggles, they were not enough to diminish the feeling that his climb ultimately will take him to the Major Leagues.

"Once he got that first hit, he relaxed and his at-bats are definitely better," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said recently, according to MLB.com. "He does see the ball well, even before he got hits I could see why he has been successful in the Minor Leagues. … Defensively, he needs to work and he needs to continue to get better. If he continues to do those things, we'll see what ends up happening."

Mike Guerrero will be Nashville's manager for the second straight season.

The Sounds' opener is 7:05 p.m. Thursday against New Orleans at Greer Stadium. For ticket information call (615) 690-4487 or visit nashvillesounds.com.

For the complete Nashville Sounds opening day roster, click here.