Blue Jays: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly- Kendrys Morales

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 04: Kendrys Morales
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 04: Kendrys Morales /

Jays Journal takes a look back at 2017, and the good, bad, and the ugly of each individual performance from the roster. Today we cover probably the biggest acquisition from the 2017 off-season in Kendrys Morales, whom the jury is still out on in terms of what to expect in 2018 from the designated hitter.

Kendrys Morales was brought in extremely early in the 2017 off-season on a 3 year, $33 million dollar deal. The contract is pretty reasonable for a reliable source of power, but the contract all but sealed Edwin Encarnacion not returning after Encarnacion declined to sign the reported contract offer within the Blue Jays time frame.

Morales came with the reputation of being a good middle of the order bat and one who could experience a solid power spike in a hitters ballpark. He also had the reputation of being a spray hitter who could hit to all fields. We didn’t necessarily see that Morales in 2017.

All that being said, Morales still brought the power that was expected. Maybe not as much power as some would have expected and not the consistency people would have expected. I was very excited for Kendrys Morales in the Blue Jays lineup, at the Rogers Centre, and the rest of the AL East ballparks. However, heading into 2018 I’m not exactly sure what to expect.

The Good

Kendrys Morales was brought in to be a middle of the order bat and one that could set career highs in the home run department. The 28 home runs were the 3rd highest total of his career and the 85 RBI were the 4th highest total of his career. His ISO was the highest it’s been since the 2010 season that was cut short due to his horrifying injury at home plate.

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All of that being said above, it’s safe to say Morales did what one could reasonably expect strictly from a power standpoint. He hit some MAMMOTH home runs and I made the word capitalized for a reason. He truly hit some majestic home runs.

There are two other aspects of Morales’ 2017 that was good. One was minor and one was somewhat major. The minor part was how he performed at first base when he absolutely had to play at 1st base. I wouldn’t consider Morales’ play at 1st base to have been a liability, something many had worried about. The somewhat major aspect of his 2017 was how well he hit left-handers. .362/.401/.598 was his slash line against lefties and Morales was one of the few who hit well against southpaws.

The Bad

While the power remained pretty consistent with Morales’ career numbers, nearly every other offensive category fell below his career numbers. Let’s look:

Career: .250/.308/.445, .320 wOBA, 97 wRC+, 21.7 K%, 7.1 BB%

2017: .270/.328/.462, .339 wOBA, 112 wRC+, 18.3 K%, 7.3 BB%

They weren’t massive declines in offensive numbers, but they were still enough to make you wonder what exactly was going on with Morales. You can look at some of his batted ball profiles and realize that he was making soft contact above his career average and medium contact less than his career norms. You also notice that he pulled the ball more than his career norms.

Again, none of these numbers are crazy differences between his 2017 and career numbers. That does give some hope that perhaps after a season to adjust to the Rogers Centre and a season removed from the expectations of replacing Edwin Encarnacion will bring Morales back to the hitter he’s been for his career.

The Ugly

You can likely already identify what comes as ugly with the game Kendrys Morales brings. He is slow and clogs the basepath so that in itself is extremely ugly. The Blue Jays were exposed on the basepaths and Morales was a major contributor to that.

The fact that Kendrys Morales clogs up the DH spot in the everyday lineup is also something I’m going to put in this category. With an aging core of Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson, and Jose Bautista in 2017 having a revolving door at DH may have benefitted the older Blue Jays position player. Morales’ baserunning and taking up the DH spot in 2018 has some wondering whether not the Blue Jays consider moving off of him or not.

Lastly, Kendrys Morales struggled mightily against right-handed batters. Against right-handers, Morales’ slash line was a terrible .216/.280/.400. Morales’ career against right-handers is much better at .263/.325/.465. Perhaps that was Morales being unable to make the adjustment to opposing pitchers throwing a lot more off-speed pitches than ever before. Regardless, he was terrible against right-handers, something I did not see coming.

Projecting 2018

Kendrys Morales is an interesting case heading into 2018. I think there’s a decently strong chance he is not on the Blue Jays come spring training. That would involve eating a majority of his contract and finding a team who wants essentially a DH only batter in an American League that’s moving towards revolving doors at DH.

I can also see Morales improving on his 2017. He isn’t as bad as he was in 2017 against right-handers unless he is unable to adjust to what pitchers were throwing him. Morales is too good a hitter for his career to suddenly lose it against right-handers and unable to make the adjustment back. If Morales improves, he can be a legitimate middle of the order bat the Blue Jays can rely on.

Next: Blue Jays: Does Zeke have a place on the 2018 team?

I do think Kendrys Morales will be here in 2018, which could be a good thing or bad thing depending on how the rest of the off-season plays out. If he returns, he will be better than 2017 and that alone will add at least an extra win in 2018.