One of the Blue Jays best hitters in the last few weeks has been Kendrys Morales, whose struggles earlier in the year had fans and writers calling for his release.
One of the lessons that most of us forget, year after year, is that a baseball season is 162 games long. We know this, and yet nearly all of us are pretty quick to panic about things about 10 or 20, or even 30 games, and more often than not things have a way of sorting themselves out.
That didn’t happen for the Blue Jays in the standings this season of course, but for a few players that had awful starts to the season, they’ve managed to turn things around. Devon Travis struggled badly enough that he was demoted to Triple-A to get things back on track (and also for roster convenience), and he’s done just that since returning to the big leagues. He was hitting .148/.212/.246 when he was sent to Buffalo, and so far in June he’s slashing .311/.354/.389 in 15 games for the month.
Randal Grichuk is another example of course, as he’s been one of the better hitters for John Gibbons lately as well. He was hitting .106/.208/.227 in his first 25 games before an injury sent him to the DL, and he entered Thursday’s game hitting .321/.379/.698 since his return.
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Both of those players faced a lot of criticism as they struggled, but no one got called out as much as Kendrys Morales, not even Grichuk.
And to be fair, Morales was absolutely brutal. He hit .160/.259/.240 in March/April, making 13 starts and appearing in 17 games. When you don’t offer anything in the way of defensive value to a ball club, you’ve gotta hit in order to justify your job, and Morales simply wasn’t doing that.
It wasn’t just that he wasn’t hitting either, but he also struck out 15 times in 50 at bats, and generally looked lost at the plate. At one point he was even dropped to eighth in the lineup, and if it hadn’t been for injuries to other players on the roster, I’m not sure he would have been getting that playing time at all.
Things have been a lot different for the amiable Cuban since then, as noted in the tweet above by Ian Hunter. He hit just .146/.230/.270 in the first 27 games, only to turn things around and hit at a greater than .300 clip. He’s also found his power stroke again, and he went deep against the Angels on Thursday as well to keep things going.
He’s still entered Thursday’s game hitting just .232/.291/.381, and his latest home run was just his seventh, but things are trending in the right direction for the 35 year old, and the Blue Jays should be relieved. They still have one year remaining on his current contract after this season, assuming they keep him around that long. With other veterans on the team that could use an occasional day off at DH, it wouldn’t hurt to move on from him, whether he’s hitting better or not.
I’m not sure that he’s performed well enough to draw any trade interest prior to the non-waiver deadline, but he’s got some time to prove he’s still a valuable asset. That extra year on his contract probably still makes him nearly impossible to move, but if the Blue Jays take some cost back and Morales is still hitting, it’s at least possible there could be an interested party.
The good news is Morales looks like a big league hitter again, something we couldn’t say in the first month or more of the season.