Free agent acquisition, Kendrys Morales, has faced some heavy expectations from Blue Jays’ fans, and thus far this Spring he’s been even better than advertised.
The Blue Jays struck pretty early in free agency by bringing in Kendrys Morales on a 3 year, 33 million dollar deal. The veteran slugger spent the last 2 seasons with the Kansas City Royals, and has also played for the Angels, Twins and Mariners throughout his 10 year career.
Morales was signed as the new designated hitter for the Blue Jays, replacing a beloved veteran in Edwin Encarnacion, who departed to Cleveland as a free agent. Unfortunately for Morales, the expectations placed on him by many fans are not exactly fair, as Encarnacion was one of the best hitters in baseball last year, finishing tied for first in the AL with 127 RBI.
Now 33, Morales is no slouch with the bat, even if he’s not Encarnacion. So far this Spring, he’s been arguably the best Blue Jays’ hitter, currently hitting .545 after Saturday’s game. He went 2-3 against one of his former teams, the Twins, on Saturday, with two singles.
He’s showed off plenty of power this Spring, and is quickly getting Blue Jays fans excited about what kind of production he might be able to bring to the Rogers Centre, one of the more favourable hitting environments in the American League.
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Last season with the the Royals, Morales put up some very solid numbers, finishing with a slash line of .263/.327/.468 with 30 home runs and 93 RBI over 558 at bats, in a much more difficult hitting environment at Kauffman stadium.
According to an article back in February by ESPN, the Rogers Centre rates as the 4th best hitter’s environment, which will work in Morales’ favour. Kauffman rates 15th, but is even more difficult on power hitters. Ranking as one of the biggest fields, Morales and his former Royals teammates had to work a little harder to hit the ball out of the park than they would elsewhere.
Obviously we haven’t seen Morales hitting at the Rogers Centre yet, but the way he’s swinging the bat this Spring, it’s pretty hard not to start thinking about his potential in the new digs. Couple that with the fact that he’ll be slotted somewhere around/between elite hitters like Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki, and Morales could be in for a big season.
So far, he’s 6-11 with 1 home run and 3 RBI, and sports a slugging percentage of .909. He’s also a switch-hitter, which will help balanced a right-handed heavy, one of the goals for the Jays’ brass this offseason.
While that .909 slugging percentage and a .545 batting average are going to come down, the excitement for what the Cuban slugger might bring to table is definitely building this spring.
Whether it’s fair or not, Morales will be compared to Edwin Encarnacion this season and likely beyond. That said, if he keeps hitting the ball the way he has so far, there won’t be a whole lot of pining for the former DH.