For the past year-plus, Kendrys Morales has been an expert in worst case scenarios. Injure yourself in a walkoff celebration, miss a full year in the aftermath, and see your team promote a promising young stud and acquire the best player in the league — both at your position — and you can come to define the term.
Are things looking up now? Teammates like Peter Bourjos raved at the power Morales showed in his first live batting practice in over a year on Monday. What if he gets it together? What might a best-case scenario for the 28-year-old switch-hitting Cuban first baseman look like? How could things break just right for him?
It won’t be easy, but let’s say that Morales has accrued enough karma to get exactly what he wants. First, he’d have to be completely healthy, which wouldn’t seem so incredible for a broken leg, but here we are. A healthy season would allow us to add 100 or so plate appearances to the projections, which have all taken into account his missing season and docked him playing time accordingly. Take Bill James‘ numbers and pro-rate it out to a full Morales season, and you get a .296 batting average with 28 home runs and 99 RBI. So far so good.
Mark Trumbo has power and not much else, considering his lack of patience and average strikeout rate. The 26-year-old did have a stress fracture in his right foot near the end of his season, either way, and there was the brief moment where he was reportedly slow to heal and possibly ready to miss up to a month of the season. Well, the most recent news has Trumbo doing a little better, and hoping to be fully cleared for Spring Training next week. So he’s not likely to give Morales an opening in that way.
But the rumor persists that the team will try Trumbo at third base. Not everyone thinks the move will be impossible, despite the 6’4″, 220-pounder’s lack of lateral agility. And Trumbo has also played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, and with the Angels last year. Despite the fact that new GM Jerry Dipoto says the team won’t trade Trumbo, there are some tea leaves to read here: the team likes him enough to keep him for now, likes his youth and ability to fake some of the lesser demanding positions in the short-term, and doesn’t really want to award the full-time designated hitter role to Trumbo.
One down, one to go.
The 38-year-old Bobby Abreu is in full decline mode. His isolated slugging percentage hit a career low last year, mostly because of a career low in home runs per fly ball (and home runs in general). His walk rate was still excellent, but he hasn’t offered value with his glove since 2004, and now that his power is gone… he was even a real negative on the base paths for the first time in his career in 2011, despite the 21 stolen bases.
All things considered, he might still make a decent, if low-powered designated hitter, right? Well, his .253/.353/.365 slash line didn’t quite stack up to the .266/.341/.430 average DH line from last season. And the Angels are going to be a contender next year. If only that stupid option hadn’t kicked in…
There’s your window for Morales. Mark Trumbo, because of his youth and possible (comparative) agility, is your corner outfielder / infielder type, perhaps taking over for Vernon Wells if the former Jay can’t get it together, or showing enough at third base to take the job from Alberto Callaspo. Bobby Abreu is traded, or becomes a bench pinch-hitter, or fades into the night if he looks even worse in Spring Training.
And Morales takes over the DH position.
A lot of things have to break right for this to happen — that was the point, to think about how likely each break might be — but as we said before, Morales has some good luck coming. It’s not impossible, and that probably makes Morales a decent late-round gamble. After all, .300/30/100 is a pretty sweet best case scenario.