Blue Jays: What’s gone wrong with Kendrys Morales?

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Kendrys Morales
HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 04: Kendrys Morales /

The Toronto Blue Jays moved quickly and likely overpaid to land DH Kendrys Morales in early November, which all but signaled the end for Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto. Luckily for the Blue Jays, Justin Smoak has covered up the loss of Encarnacion and has somewhat hidden the subpar season by Morales. What’s gone wrong with Kendrys? Let’s take a look.

  • Overall: 21 HR, 60 RBI, 7.2 BB%, 22.2 K%, .245/.306/.436, 93 wRC+
  • 1st half: 16 HR, 48 RBI, 5.9 BB%, 22.9 K%, .252/.300/.454, 95 wRC+
  • 2nd half: 5 HR, 12 RBI, 10.4 BB%, 20.1 K%, .224/.321/.388, 88 wRC+

It’s been a largely underwhelming season for Morales in 2017. From a pure power standpoint, the 21 home runs and 60 RBI with just over a month left to play isn’t terrible, but definitely not what was expected when he moved to Rogers Centre. There were people who thought 40 home runs was possible for Morales, but he has had a very poor 2nd half.

Based on those numbers above, it’s easy to see Kendrys just hasn’t been able to put his entire offensive game together. You got the power in the first half, but a bad OBP and fairly high strikeout rate. While the 2nd half has been better in terms of getting on base at a better clip and striking out less, Morales’ power has gone. Just five home runs in 116 at-bats in the 2nd half.

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Pretty much all of Morales’ offensive stats are below his career norms. Below are his career stats:

  • 7.3 BB%, 18.2 K%, .270/.328/.462, 112 wRC+

All of those except for the walks are quite below career norms for Kendrys. What could be a possible answer to this? There’s a few things that are contributing to the underwhelming season.

1. Splits

  • vs. L: 6 HR, 23 RBI, 5.7 BB%, 22.6 K%, .340/.377/.560, 148 wRC+
  • vs. R: 15 HR, 37 RBI, 7.6 BB%, 22.0 K%, .216/.287/.399, 77 wRC+

Morales is struggling mightily against right handed pitching when he’s batting from the left side of the plate. Kendrys has always been a strong hitter against lefties, but he’s never been anywhere close to this poor against right handers.

  • Career vs. R: 7.7 BB%, 18.9 K%, .265/.327/.467, 113 wRC+

He has taken an extreme hit to how he fares against right handers in 2017. The unfortunate thing is that he is usually extremely consistent from both sides of the plate and can handle both sides quite effectively. It’s been a drastic shift towards being dominant from the left side and poor from the right.

2. Batted Ball

There are some pretty concerning trends with how Morales has hit the ball in 2017. He’s become very pull heavy at 44.5% which would be a career high. He’s down 5% in the amount he goes up the middle of the diamond (30.3%), and is around his career norm for going oppo-taco at 25.2%.

Kendrys also has hit the ball soft at a higher rate and isn’t hitting the ball hard like he did in 2016. It’s interesting to note why and the possible explanation will be explained below. It does seem to be that Morales has gotten pull happy at the Rogers Centre due to it’s reputation as a launching pad. The past few years at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Morales spread the ball all around the field due to it’s size. Perhaps hitting in a bandbox had an unfortunate effect on how Morales attacks his at-bats.

3. Can’t hit the breaking stuff

Kendrys Morales has struggled mightily against breaking pitches in 2017 and it’s no coincidence that his power has dropped off as the opposition throws him more breaking pitches. Below outlines the percentage of what is thrown to Morales by month.

  • 4/17 – 52.45% Hard, 24.55% Breaking, 23.00 Offspeed
  • 5/17 – 52.88%, 25.21%, 21.92%
  • 6/17 – 49.31%, 30.96%, 19.72%
  • 7/17 – 51.54%, 31.83%, 16.63%
  • 8/17 – 43.46%, 37.17%, 19.37%

You can clearly see that the opposition has found out how to pitch to Morales. They aren’t giving him much in the way of hard stuff and the rise of the breaking balls has increased with each month as they see he cannot hit breaking balls. Kendrys has failed to make the adjustment based on what’s been thrown his way, something that will need to change to hit right handers better in 2018 and be better overall in 2018.

Kendrys Morales has not performed like the Blue Jays had hoped for in 2017 and the three reasons listed above are all the major reasons for the dip in production and the -0.8 fWAR. All three of those points above do go hand-in-hand as well. It all goes back to Morales’ approach at the plate and his inability to adjust to what pitchers are throwing him. These are all fixable issues for 2018 as it’s extremely unlikely the Blue Jays will be able to find a potential trade partner for a full-time, aging DH. Morales will be a key piece to a 2018 turn around for the team and that starts with Morales getting back to the hitter he’s been his whole career.

Next: Potential September call-ups for the Jays