For the first time since 2009, before he suffered a nasty leg injury that nearly ended his career, Kendrys Morales hit 30 home runs in a season. This probably does and should raise immediate regression red flags. Of course, 30 homers last year was sufficient to place Morales 31st on the home run leaderboard league-wide with the whole league enjoying a power binge.
After two productive years in Kansas City, Toronto signed the 33 year-old Morales to a three year deal worth $33 million. Although the league-wide power landscape is largely uncertain given the unprecedented spike in home runs during 2016, this move provides some hope that Morales could keep or even increase on the power gains from last year regardless of what the rest of Major League Baseball does in the power department.
The switch-hitting Morales goes from Kansas City, which according to FanGraphs had a below average home run park factor of 93 for right-handed and left-handed hitters. Meanwhile, the Rogers Centre is an above average home run park factor for both righties (107) and lefties (103). In fact, all 30 of Morales’s home runs from last season would have left Rogers Centre. Over two years, only 3 of Morales 53 home runs would have come up short in Rogers Centre. Morales also gets the benefit of playing in some of the other favorable AL East stadiums (Boston, New York, Baltimore).
In five games started or played formats, Morales will have both 1B and OF eligibility, which are the formats where he is most attractive. Otherwise, he will be utility only, but it is possible that he would earn 1B eligibility at some point this year with Toronto depending on who re-signs or signs there. Of course, that may also influence a number of other factors such as counting stat production and lineup slot, which are volatile factors to begin with.
Power aside, you can safely project Morales for a .270-.275 type batting average based on his lengthy track record. Despite having virtually no speed whatsoever, I think he could reach 2015’s .290 mark with a little better luck. As a switch-hitter, he suffers from no real platoon issue and Morales employs an up the middle approach, which prevents defenses from employing the shift against him. Typical of a 1B slugging type, Morales makes a hefty amount of Hard Contact (41.1% in 2016, 35.3% in 2015). Quality contact will usually lead to quality balls in play and homers.
The best part of Morales is that he will come cheap. In one early expert draft, Morales went as pick 195, which would be in the 16th round of a 12-team draft. By the time drafts roll around, I would bet he is even more of a value given his age and limited upside. However, if you buy the change in venues as being a major factor, it is easy to see a 30 home run campaign becoming a 35 home run campaign.
You will note that my projection does not reach those heights, but that is because I am counting on a non-negligible decrease in home runs throughout the league.
My projection for Kendrys Morales – 155 GP, 29 HR, 79 R, 95 RBI, 0 SB, .283/.338/.467
For a comparison, Justin Turner had a substantially similar season and finished as the 87th overall player last season according to Yahoo’s player rater.