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The season that was: Kendrys Morales

A look at Morales’ 2017 season

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays signing of Kendrys Morales wasn’t exactly universally loved.

Three years at $11 million per wasn’t a lot of money.

It came about through a series of misjudgments:

  • The Jays offered Edwin Encarnacion a contract.
  • Edwin, even though he said he wanted to stay a Jay, wanted to test the market. Very understandable.
  • The Jays figured Edwin would get a better offer and decided to look elsewhere, equally understandable, and quickly signed Morales, less understandable.
  • Edwin found out that the market for 30+ sluggers wasn’t what we all thought it would be, he would have been better off to sign with the Jays, but the Jays filled his role.

Our poll showed that most of us liked the deal:

But, later, Dave Cameron called the second worst transaction of the winter (his worst was the Rockies signing of Ian Desmond to a 5-year, $70 million deal. One season in he looks dead on about that.):

But while I don’t think we can judge the Blue Jays’ signing solely by the fact that the market for bat-only players immediately crashed after that move, I do think it’s fair to wonder why they were so anxious to lock up a mediocre player.

That was the main problem with the deal, they jumped in before seeing the market. Generally, that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but last winter it was. Three years at $11 million per wasn’t a lot of money, but, had they waited, they wouldn’t have had to go three years.

I did figure that, moving from Kauffman Stadium to Rogers, his numbers might take a little jump.

Year   Age   G  AB  R   H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB  SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
2017    34 150 557 67 139 25  0 28  85  0  0 43 132 .250 .308 .445 .753   94

I was wrong.

Baseball Reference had him at a -0.2 WAR. FanGraphs -0.6, giving him a value of -$5.1 million to the Jays.

He had a .320 wOBA and a 97 wRC+.

Compared to 2016, his walk rate was down a bit (7.1% from 7.8) and his strikeout rate was up (21.7%, from 19.4).

His line drive rate was down (18.5%, from 20.1), ground ball up (48.4%, from 44.2) and fly ball down (33.2%, from 35.7). His fly balls left the park at about the same rate as last year (19.7%, from 19.0).

His BABIP was about the same as last year (.278, last year .283).

Kendrys hit lefties (.362/.401/.598) far better than right-handers (.216/.280/.400).

He was hit pretty much the same at home (.244/.314/.450) as on the road (.254/.302/.441).

With RISP Morales hit .231/.309/.438.

His first (.252/.300/.454) was about the same as his second half (.246/.317/.441).

Kendrys by month:

  • April: .227/.286/.381 with 4 homers in 25 games.
  • May: .295/.351/.580 with 6 homers in 24 games.
  • June: .257/.286/.446 with 5 homers in 25 games.
  • July: .232/.315/.421 with 5 homers in 25 games.
  • August: .256/.322/.500 with 5 homers in 25 games,
  • September: .234/.291/.362 with 3 homers in 25 games.

Like most of the team, May was the one good month.

He played 12 games at first base. He looked much better than I thought he would at first.

He was slow. FanGraphs has him at a -9.3 runs on the basepaths. That makes him second worst in baseball (to Joey Votto). I doubt anyone would argue that he wasn’t incredibly slow. He hasn’t had a stolen base since 2009. He hit into 22 double plays this year.

In the batting order he hit:

  • 3rd 12 times.
  • 4th 77 times.
  • 5th 52 times.

His longest hitting streak was 8 games. Longest on base streak 13 games. The longest he went without a homer was 16 games.

Kendrys favorite team to hit against? He hit .455/.500/.909 in 3 games against the Reds. Among AL teams, he hit .407/.448/.630 with 4 homers against the Rangers.

Least favorite? He hit .125/.222/.125 in 6 games against the Royals.

Kendrys is a Blue Jay for another two seasons.

If he can bump up his numbers a little bit, put up a 111 wRC+ (like he did in 2016), we would be happy with it. If his numbers continue to drop, well that wouldn’t be good.

He’s 34 now. One would expect his bat to continue to slow, at least in the long run, but it’s possible he could have a bit of a bounce back season.

I’m not expecting him to put up a .290/.362/.485 line, like he did in 2015, but he could give us a .263/.327/.468 line like he put up in 2016. Maybe. I hope.

When we signed him, my complaint was that it was for three seasons. If they had signed him for a year, I would have been ok with it. 3 seasons? That seemed like a mistake the time.

I’m curious if the Jays will be willing to release him if he has a bad start to the 2018 season. Frank Thomas had a very good 2007 season, then started slow in 2008 and the team released him.

In the old days....the Jays would use the DH spot to start the career of a top prospect, Carlos Delgado, Fred McGriff and John Olerud all started their Blue Jays careers as DHes. I wonder if the team would consider doing that with Vlad Guerrero Jr, if Morales starts slow in either of the next two seasons. I always liked the idea of working prospects in slowly.

Odds are they won’t. I figure Morales will hit just well enough to keep his job, but not quite well enough for us to grow to like him. But I’m hoping I’m wrong.