Is Kendrys Morales This Year's Mark Trumbo?

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Kendrys Morales signed a three year, $33 million pact with the Blue Jays early this offseason. Many criticized the signing then, and have criticized it even further after Encarnacion’s and the rest of the 1B/DH market did not develop as anticipated. Nonetheless, Morales is leaving for a better fantasy situation.

Could he break out in the AL East like Mark Trumbo did last year? This piece will analyze data from three similar scenarios, and data from Baseball Savant, to answer that question.

As Morales is not a stolen base threat, this article will solely focus on the other four categories.

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Comparison 1: Trumbo in Anaheim (2011-2013) vs. Morales (2009-2012) in Anaheim 162 Game Averages

Morales and Trumbo both played in Anaheim during similar timeframes. Morales’ time in Anaheim was marred by an infamous injury, but after becoming a full-time player, he played all of 2009, a portion of 2010, and most of 2012 at ages 25-29. Trumbo likewise had three seasons, ages 25-27, after becoming a full-time player. We will thus compare their stats from their time in Anaheim, which were fairly similar on 162 game averages, and use Trumbo’s AL East stats to project Morales’ potential AL East stats.

ANAHEIM
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Mark Trumbo .251 35 78 101
Kendrys Morales .290 33 85 106
% Difference +15.5 -6.1 +9.0 +5.0

 

AL EAST
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Mark Trumbo .256 48 96 110
Kendrys Morales .296 45 105 115
% Difference +15.5 -6.1 +9.0 +5.0

 

Baltimore is +11% in homers for righties (according to baseballmonster.com, which is the source for all park factors used herein). Toronto is +11% for homers generally (as Morales is a switch-hitter). Thus, their home parks should be equal for homers.

 

Comparison 2: Josh Donaldson in Oakland (2013-2014) vs. Morales (2015-2016) in Kansas City 162 Game Averages

Another comparison is Josh Donaldson’s two years prior to Toronto in a pitchers’ park (-6% for righty homers) versus Morales’ two years prior to Toronto in a pitchers’ park (-11% for homers). Toronto does give righties more of a boost (+13%) than hitters generally (+11%), but Morales still comes out slightly ahead when considering their prior parks. One meaningful difference is Donaldson’s last two years were at ages 29-30, whereas Morales’ will be 33-35, but it’s not clear the difference in drop-offs from 28-30 should be too much different than from 33-35 (see http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/component-changes-in-new-hitter-aging-curves/). Thus, we take their numbers in their two years prior to Toronto to project Morales’ Toronto stats.

TWO YEARS PRIOR TO TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Josh Donaldson .277 28 94 98
Kendrys Morales .277 27 76 104
% Difference -- -3.7 -23.7 +6.1

 

TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Josh Donaldson .291 41 127 115
Kendrys Morales .291 40 103 122
% Difference -- -3.7 -23.7 +6.1

 

As you can see, their 162 game averages prior to Toronto were very similar. Moreover, so were their home/road homer splits. Morales hit 22 home and 30 away, whereas those numbers were 24 and 29 for Donaldson.

 

Comparison 3: Michael Saunders in Seattle (2012-2014) vs. Kendrys Morales in KC (2015-2016)

Morales and Saunders both played in Seattle in 2013, but I am choosing to use Morales’ more recent numbers for comparison as he only played one season in Seattle, and it was four seasons ago. I will compare Saunders’ three seasons prior to joining Toronto (ages 25-27), since he only played 204 games in 2009-2011, to Morales’ two seasons in Kansas City. This comparison is a little trickier, because Seattle moved in the fences after 2012, and is now +6% for lefty homers. Nonetheless, I felt a third comparison necessary lest the projections get too lofty otherwise. Their pre-AL East 162 game averages are not as similar as the others.

PRIOR TO TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Michael Saunders .248 19 78 64
Kendrys Morales .277 27 76 104
% Difference +11.7 +42.1 -2.6 +62.5

 

TORONTO
AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Michael Saunders .250 27 76 66
Kendrys Morales .279 38 74 107
% Difference +11.7 +42.1 -2.6 +62.5 

 

Combining the Projections

Because multiple data points are better than one, the below table averages the three projections above, and then gives Morales a 10% discount for games played (as the numbers were based on 162 game averages).

AVG HR RUNS RBIS
Morales 1 .296 45 105 115
Morales 2 .291 40 103 122
Morales 3 .279 38 74 107
Morales Average .289 41 94 115
10% discount for games .289 37 85 104

 

Baseball Savant’s Statcast Data

Baseball Savant’s spray chart data and park maps indicate Morales likely would have hit 37 homers in 2016 had all his games been in the Rogers Centre. While Morales will only play half his games at home, and thus the park boost may not be as large, the other four parks in the AL East are an average of +4.25% for homers whereas the four road parks in the AL Central were +2.5%. Thus, the spray charts and park factors also predict a power jump.

 

Conclusion

The projections above, based on three cherry-picked players who broke out, feel a bit lofty to me. Moreover, I did not factor age into the calculations, or the fact that Kansas City was better for batting average than Seattle or Oakland (upon which two comparisons were based). Loosely adjusting for these factors, I think a .270 average with 30+ homers, 100 RBIs and 80 runs is perfectly reasonable, and there is room for further upside. Thus, Morales is being rated far too low and could be this year’s Trumbo, who was one of my breakout candidates last year.

 

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