Can Kendrys Morales Step out of the Shadows of Edwin Encarnacion?
No matter what Kendrys Morales does over the next three years in a Blue Jays uniform, he’ll always be compared to Edwin Encarnacion.
Morales was the man the Blue Jays unnecessarily hurried out to sign before the free agent market barely materialized, which in turn, prevented them from bringing back Encarnacion. It turns out Edwin wanted to be with the Blue Jays all along.
It was a long, complicated and ugly mess, but in the end, the Jays went with Morales over Encarnacion. Unknowingly, some fans may hold some resentment for the man brought in to replace a franchise icon.
Admittedly, not very much is known about Kendrys Morales. He’s a very quiet player, someone who keeps to himself. I mean, everyone in baseball called him “Kendry” for seven years until he corrected them that his name is actually “Kendrys”.
Like many before him, Kendrys Morales defected from Cuba. It took him 13 attempts to leave the country. Three times, Morales was incarcerated for trying to escape Cuba. But in 2009, he made it to America.
Fast forward to 2017, and Kendrys Morales has some big shoes to fill. He has to fill the void left by Edwin Encarnacion; a perennial 30+ home run hitter. Meanwhile, Morales has only hit 30 or more home runs once in the last seven years.
But the move from the spacious Kaufman Stadium to the home run-happy confines of the Rogers Centre can only bode well for the Blue Jays’ new designated hitter. Morales is a bit of an analytics darling, as many stat-savvy sites believe his numbers will jump after moving to Toronto.
Mike Petriello of MLB.com estimates that due to his exit velocity and launch angle, Kendrys Morales’ OPS should’ve been more like .941 instead of .795 last year. If that’s the case, that’s an elite-level OPS – a top 10 hitters in all of baseball OPS.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Maybe that’s why the Jays signed Morales so quickly; because they saw something in his numbers.” quote=”Maybe that’s why the Blue Jays ran out and signed Kendrys Morales so quickly; because they saw something in Morales and wanted to get to him first before anybody else.”]
Tony Blengino from FanGraphs said Kendrys Morales is “the DH with the most misleading 2016 traditional 2016 statistics” and predicts Morales to outperform both Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
In terms of batted balls on Baseball Savant, Morales ranked 12th among all hitters in average exit velocity. Morales was a Top 20 hitter in 2016 in terms of barreled balls as well, not far behind Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion.
Go up and down most of the advanced stat leaderboards from 2016 and you’ll find Kendrys Morales name near the top of the list. The numbers are all very reassuring, but the speed at which the Blue Jays signed Morales left many stunned and puzzled.
Which is to say, maybe that’s why the Blue Jays ran out and signed Kendrys Morales so quickly; because they saw something in Morales and wanted to get to him first before anybody else.
Others may see the player who’s a bit of a liability on the base paths. Kendrys Morales isn’t renowned for setting land speed records, but ideally, it shouldn’t matter … because you want Morales to make the slow jog around the bases because he’s hitting tonnes of round-trippers.
The Blue Jays haven’t had a full-time designated hitter on the roster since the days of Frank Thomas in 2006, and we all know how that ended. The fact is that the market for all-bat-no-defense players isn’t anywhere near where it used to be.
Even still, three years and $33 million seems like a pretty reasonable amount of money to pay for a guy who has a lot of upside. Not to mention, Morales is going from the AL Central – home to a lot of spacious ballparks in Kansas City, Detroit and Minnesota.
Morales moves to a division which is home to some of the most hitter-friendly stadiums in the American League. So yeah, I think Blue Jays fans are going to enjoy watch Morales transition to the AL East – much like they did with Josh Donaldson.
The Blue Jays lost a lot of offense when Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders signed elsewhere this past offseason. But a healthy Jose Bautista in addition to some upside from Kendrys Morales could offset the gap.
For some reason, I have a feeling the Kendrys Morales contract has the potential of going one of two ways; one, he either performs at market value or slightly above. Or two, by the time year three of his deal rolls around in 2020, the Jays will be looking for any excuse to jettison that contract.
That’s why Kendrys Morales is a huge wild card for the Blue Jays. Surely, the club would be content if Morales produces anything remotely close to what Edwin Encarnacion gave them the past few years. Ideally, Morales plays the part of a supporting cast member to Donaldson and Bautista.
But if things go sideways for Kendrys Morales and he starts looking like the 2014 version of his former self, all anyone will be saying is “they should’ve signed Edwin”.
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