Kendrys Morales

From BR Bullpen

Kendrys Morales Rodriguez
played as Kendry Morales through 2010 season

  • Bats Both, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 1", Weight 220 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

Kendrys Morales broke into the Cuban Serie Nacional in fine form in 2001-2002. After being named the best junior player in Latin America by the Pan American Baseball Federation in 2001, Morales hit .324 his rookie season for the Industriales. He was third in the Serie Nacional in homers (21), RBI (82) and total bases (203). The 3B-OF set rookie records with 114 hits, 82 RBIs, 21 home runs, 46 extra-base hits and 60 runs. His hit record was broken by César Prieto 18 years later. He became the first teenager to make the Cuban national team since the legendary Omar Linares two decades earlier. In the 2002 Intercontinental Cup, Morales hit .270/.310/.459 with 15 RBI in 10 games for Cuba, which won a Gold Medal after Silvers in the prior two Intercontinental Cups. Morales was second to Yobal Dueñas in RBI that tourney, but did not make the All-Star team as Feng-An Tsai was chosen at first base.

In 2002-2003, Kendrys hit .391, second to Osmani Urrutia, the two-time defending champ. The switch-hitter starred in the 2003 Pan-American Games, hitting a key homer in a comeback win over Panama en route to the title, but was sent back to Cuba after improper contact with an American sports official. In the 2003 Baseball World Cup, Morales hit .265/.306/.588 with 3 homers and 11 RBI in 9 games. Morales's biggest hit came in the quarterfinals; with Cuba down 3-2 in the bottom of the 9th and facing elimination from medal contention against upstart Brazil, Morales hit a 2-run homer off of Kleber Tomita to win the game. Yulieski Gourriel scored on the play. Sharnol Adriana beat out Morales for the All-Star slot at 1B.

Morales was banned from playing by the Cuban government, then he defected to the USA in June 2004 with 16 others by boat. Establishing residency in the Dominican Republic, Morales did not sign until December 1, when he was inked to a six-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by scouts Clay Daniel and Tito Perez including a $3 million signing bonus. When he signed the contract, his name was incorrectly listed as Kendry and he was known under that name in the United States until he asked for the record to be corrected prior to the 2011 season.

Morales hit .344/.400/.544 in 22 games for the 2005 Rancho Cucamonga Quakes and .306/.349/.530 for the Arkansas Travelers with 17 HR in 74 games. Baseball America ranked him as the 7th-best prospect in the Texas League and he hit 3rd, starting for first base for the World team in the 2005 Futures Game, in which he went 1 for 2.

Kendry split 2006 between the Angels and Salt Lake Bees. He hit .320/.359/.520 in 66 games for the Bees and .234/.293/.371 in his first 57 games in the major leagues. In '07, Morales again dazzled with Salt Lake, batting .341/.385/.486 in 64 games and held his own in The Show, producing at a .294/.333/.479 clip in 43 games, backing up Casey Kotchman at 1B. Kotchman had a slightly better OPS+ for the year, 119 to 111.

Morales continued the trend in 2008, hitting .341/.376/.543 with 64 RBI in 78 games for Las Vegas while Kotchman held the fort in LA until they traded for Mark Teixeira. Kendry struggled that year in his time with the Angels, hitting just .213/.273/.393 in 27 games. People were likely to tag him as a AAAA Player; like most players so named, he had not yet gotten a real shot at a regular job in the majors.

The chance to play came with the 2009 Angels when Teixeira left to sign a blockbuster deal with the New York Yankees. Morales batted .306/.355/.569 with 43 doubles, 34 home runs, 86 runs and 108 RBI. He was among the 2009 AL leaders in slugging (2nd, .018 behind MVP Joe Mauer), OPS (8th, just ahead of Jason Bay), total bases (322, 6th), doubles (tied for 8th with Teixeira and Marlon Byrd), homers (tied for 6th with Miguel Cabrera), RBI (tied for 5th with Victor Martinez and Aaron Hill), extra-base hits (79, 3rd behind Teixeira and Adam Lind) and OPS+ (137, 9th). He hit particularly well over the second half of the season and was the American League Player of the Month in August. He finished fifth in voting for the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player Award, behind Mauer, Teixeira, Derek Jeter and Cabrera.

He was only 6 for 34 in the 2009 Postseason, with 2 homers and 7 RBI. He was, however, on his way to confirming his place as one of the premier sluggers in the American League when his season ended prematurely in 2010. In his first 51 games, he had hit 11 home runs with a batting line of .290/.346/.487. His last home run was a walk-off grand slam on May 29 against Brandon League of the Seattle Mariners - his first career grand slam. With his teammates surrounding him, he jumped on home plate to mark the occasion with emphasis, and landed awkwardly, breaking a bone above his left ankle. He had to undergo season-ending surgery in early June.

In 2011, Morales, who had been known as "Kendry" in the United States, asked that he now be called by his real name "Kendrys". He was hopeful of rejoining the Angels' line-up quickly, but news was not good. The fracture he sustained in his ankle had healed fully, but it had led to the formation of scar tissue and degenerative cysts in his ankle, requiring a second surgery in May. That in turn called for another six-month recovery period, ending any hope of his return that season. He was back for spring training in 2012, although the Angels were taking it easy at first. With newly-signed Albert Pujols and the previous year's incumbent at first base, Mark Trumbo, both with the team, there was no need to rush Morales' return. He only began to run the bases two weeks into camp, but manager Mike Scioscia said the team was still hoping to have him ready for opening day. He was indeed recovered in time to start the season with the Angels, although he was in a bit of a slump until breaking out in fine fashion in an April 16th game against the Oakland Athletics; he hit a three-run homer off Brandon McCarthy in the 1st inning, then added a pair of hits as the Angels shut out the A's, 6-0. On July 30th, he became only the third player in major league history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same inning, following Carlos Baerga in 1993 and Mark Bellhorn in 2002. Facing Roy Oswalt of the Texas Rangers lefthanded with a runner on, he hit a first homer in the 6th inning, then when the batting order turned over, he hit a grand slam righthanded off left Robbie Ross to cap a 9-run inning. The Angels won handily, 15-9, and Kendrys's 6 RBI were one short of the American League record for an inning, set by Alex Rodriguez in 2009. He finished his comeback season with a .273 average in 134 games, with 26 doubles, 22 homers and 73 RBI. However, after the Angels signed Josh Hamilton as a free agent after the season, Morales became surplus, and was dealt to the Seattle Mariners on December 19th in return for P Jason Vargas.

Morales had a very solid season with the Mariners in 2013, playing 156 games as the team's main DH. He hit .277/.336/.449, good for an OPS+ of 127 in the tough hitting environment of Safeco Field. He slugged 34 doubles and 23 homers and drove in 80 runs. He and agent Scott Boras wanted to cash in on back-to-back solid seasons, but it seemed their demands were too high for most teams, as Morales was one of the last remaining unsigned free agents as spring training was winding down in 2014 (another Boras client, Stephen Drew was in the same situation). Not helping Morales' case was the fact his signing would mean the team would lose a top pick in the 2014 amateur draft, in addition to concerns about his lack of defensive value and how long his hitting stroke would hold given he was a relatively late bloomer and was now on the wrong side of 30. Once the draft was completed, he did find as suitor, as the Minnesota Twins offered him a contract on June 7th, for an annual salary of $12 million pro-rated to $7.6 million given a large chunk of the season had already elapsed. He only stayed with the Twins for less than two months, however, as on July 24th, the Mariners decided to reacquire him, giving up P Stephen Pryor to do so. In 39 games with Minnesota, he hit .234 with 1 homer and 18 RBIs. He could not really find his stroke with the Mariners, however, as he hit only .209 in 59 games, with 7 homers and 24 RBIs. After the season, he signed a two-year deal with the Kansas City Royals for $17 million, with the expectation that he would take over for DH Billy Butler.

Morales became an offensive leader with the Royals in 2015, as one of the oldest players on a team building on its success from the previous season, when it unexpectedly reached the World Series. The Royals had the best record in the American League on May 22nd, when they met the St. Louis Cardinals, who were leading the National League in an interleague series. Kendrys was the hero of the first game, homering twice and driving in all five runs as Kansas City won, 5-0. His 37 RBIs at that point were the most in the AL. On September 20th, he had a three-homer game in a 10-3 Royals win over the Detroit Tigers, also setting a team record with 15 total bases in the game, as he also hit a triple. He was the first Royals player to hit three long balls in one game since Danny Tartabull on July 6, 1991. He finished the season at .290 with 22 homers and 106 RBIs in 158 games and was named the winner of the Silver Slugger Award as the best DH in the American League. In the postseason, he hit 3 homers in the ALDS as the Royals came back to defeat the Houston Astros, then hit .273 with a homer in the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays. He was limited to 2 hits in 10 at-bats in the 2015 World Series, but the Royals still went on to beat the New York Mets to win their first title since 1985. He had another good season in 2016 even though the Royals fell back in the standings, hitting ,263 with 30 homers and 93 RBIs in 154 games.

On November 11, 2016, he signed a three-year, $33 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays to take over as the team's DH starting in 2017. His signing likely meant that the era of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who were both free agents at the time, was over. Bautista did re-sign for one year with Toronto however, but what was promising to be another strong year by the Jays quickly turned into a big disappointment as they got off to a terrible start in April, and never could right things, in spite of coming back within one game of playing for .500 on 10 different occasions, but failing to get over the hump every single time. For his part, Kendrys did contribute some power and RBIs from the middle of the line-up, although his inability to play the field, his very low walk rate and his complete lack of foot speed meant that his contribution as a whole was a lot below that which Encarnacion had provided in previous years. Still, he had some memorable hits, including a grand slam off Blake Snell of the Tampa Bays Rays in a 5-2 win on April 6th, in just his third game as a Jay and a walk-off shot off Tyler Wilson of the Baltimore Orioles on April 15th. With the Blue Jays basically out of the running, he had a great game on August 31st when he had his second career three-homer game and drove in 7 runs in an 11-8 win over the Orioles. In 150 games, he hit .250 with 28 homers and 85 RBIs. These looked superficially like good numbers, but his OPS+ was just 97, well below average for a player whose only contribution was with the bat.

Given his disappointing performance in 2017, many observers pointed out that Morales was one of the weak links on the Blue Jays coming into 2018. However, his generous contract made him basically untradable, so he was back in his starting spot. He started the year very slowly, hitting .160 in March/April and .233 in May, with only 4 long balls over the two months. However, he picked up the pace after that and after a solis month of July during which he hit .338 and had an OPS of 1.032, he had had four-game streak in mid-August in which he homered. Three of these were against the awful Baltimore Orioles and contributed to a season-sweep of home games against the O's by the Jays. He added another long ball in his next game, against Jake Arrieta of the Philadelphia Phillies in a 4-2 win on August 24th to make it five straight with a homer, and did it against the next day, off Nick Pivetta of the Phillies, to tie the Jays record of six straight games set by Jose Cruz Jr. in 2001. He then set a new record on August 26th with a two-run blast off Vince Velasquez. The streak ended the next day when the Jays were shut out by the Orioles, 7-0. He finished the season at .249 with 21 homers and 57 RBIs in 130 games. His OPS+ went back up to decent territory, to 112.

The Blue Jays went all-out on a youth movement starting in mid-season in 2018, with iconic figures such as Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ and Russell Martin all being traded. However, Morales stayed put and was in spring training with the team in 2019, seemingly assured to be one of the team's few veterans as the starting DH. However, on the eve of opening day, on March 27th, he was traded to the Oakland Athletics in return for minor leaguer Jesus Lopez and international bonus pool money. The A's had lost 1B Matt Olson to injury during their two-game opening series in Japan a week earlier and wanted a seasoned major leaguer to take his place. He failed to provide much offense, however, hitting .204 with just 1 homer and 7 RBIs in 34 games in spite of copious playing time in the early weeks of the season. On May 13th, he was designated for assignment, but managed to latch on with the injury-riddled New York Yankees the next day, who acquired him for future considerations. He played briefly for New York, hitting .177 in 19 games, but his fate was pretty much sealed when the Yanks acquired DH Edwin Encarnacion, the man he had replaced in Toronto, via trade on June 15th. He officially announced his retirement the following February.

Sources: 2002-2006 Baseball Almanacs, article, IBAF site

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • AL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2015/DH)
  • 20-Home Run Seasons: 7 (2009, 2012, 2013 & 2015-2018)
  • 30-Home Run Seasons: 2 (2009 & 2016)
  • 100 RBI Seasons: 2 (2009 & 2015)
  • Won a World Series with the Kansas City Royals in 2015

Related Sites[edit]