Blue Jays: How bad is Kendrys Morales on defence?

Apr 11, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Kendrys Morales (8) hits a single in the first inning against Milwaukee Brewers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Kendrys Morales (8) hits a single in the first inning against Milwaukee Brewers at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

With Josh Donaldson struggling with calf issues again, the Blue Jays may decide to use him at designated hitter until he’s fully healthy. Such a move would mean Kendrys Morales would have to grab a glove and play first.

When the Blue Jays signed Kendrys Morales this offseason, they signed a very solid hitter with potential to bring even more with a move to a more hitter friendly park. So far Morales looks the part, having 3 hits in Tuesday night’s game, and swinging a solid stick all spring.

What Morales doesn’t bring is much value on defence, and we may be on the cusp of finding of what he’s capable of, sooner than later. With Josh Donaldson struggling with calf issues again, the Jays may decide to use their 2015 MVP at DH for awhile until he’s healthier. If they want to also keep Morales in the lineup, he would have to play first base.

It’s not as if the position is unfamiliar to Morales, as he’s played 386 games at the position in his 11 year career. It’s just that he’s been primarily a DH for several years now and doesn’t offer much on defence.

More from Jays Journal

In 2016 while with the Kansas City Royals, Morales started just 6 games at first, following just 9 starts in 2015, so it’s a pretty small recent sample size. You have to go back to 2013 for a season in which he made just 31 starts, and all the way back to 2009 when he started the position in 142 games.

It was 2010 when Morales had the career altering injury that has mostly limited him to DH duties since. For those that are unfamiliar, Morales broke his ankle after hitting a home run. While meeting teammates at the plate, he jumped and landed awkwardly, breaking his ankle badly enough that he would miss a season and half worth of games. It really was a shame at the time, as Morales was one of the best young hitters in the American League at the time.

He was a primary first baseman prior to that injury, but as we’ve discussed above, has seen limited action in the field since. He’s still capable of filling in for a game or two, but it’s questionable whether he should be playing much, which is a complicated situation given the Donaldson injury.

As you can see from the chart above, there are a couple categories in particular that are pretty hard on Morales’ recent performance at the soft corner. His Rtot (Total fielding runs above average), and Rdrs (defensive runs saved) are both in the negative, despite very limited action. It’s possible he could get more comfortable at the position with more regular duty, but it’s questionable if that’s good for the health of his leg.

Either way, we’re likely about to find out as John Gibbons tries to keep both Morales and Donaldson in the lineup as much as he can. It’s possible Donaldson will ultimately end up on the 10 day DL, but he was poking his head out of the dugout on Tuesday night, at least feigning availability as a pinch hitter.

Next: Blue Jays: Good years with bad April performances

Hopefully Morales is up to the challenge of picking up the mitt for a few weeks at least, as it would be a shame to have his bat on the bench, even in favour of Donaldson.

facebooktwitterreddit