Kendrys Morales and Fernando Tatis

You might not be old enough to remember, but Fernando Tatis once put up a monster fantasy baseball performance. In 1998, the Texas Rangers were in a dogfight with the Anaheim Angels, who at that point in history were not affiliated with the city of Los Angeles. The Rangers weren’t particularly thrilled with Kevin Elster at shortstop nor their motley crew of starting pitchers which included the aging arms of John Burkett and Bobby Witt. So they dealt a kid named Fernando Tatis and other moving parts to the St. Louis Cardinals for Royce Clayton and Todd Stottlemyre.

The following season, Tatis hit .298/.404/.553 with 34 home runs, 107 RBI, and even stole 21 bags — a monster at any position, but particularly handy in a year where a lot of us still rostered Ed Sprague, Ron Coomer, and Joe Randa at third base. Tatis would never come close to that level of production for the rest of his career — but plenty of fantasy managers would take a flyer on him just in case that “old” Tatis re-emerged.

Kendrys Morales has been a steadier bat than Tatis ever was, but when I look at his career, I can’t help draw the Tatis comparison. In 2009, Morales hit .306/.355/.569 with 34 home runs and 108 RBI, and he seemed poised to be a middle-of-the-order mainstay for the Anaheim Angels now closely affiliated with the city of Los Angeles. Then came the ill-fated home plate celebration of 2010, an injury that seemed to bother him for the better part of two calendar years. It was only in the second half of 2012 that his power emerged, where he hit 14 home runs and 15 doubles in 64 games.

This season, Morales hit .277/.336/.449 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI in a season that was considered to be mostly healthy for him. That production placed him 19th among qualified first basemen, according to the overworked abacus that is Zach Sanders’ brain.

Morales accomplished this in perhaps the most circuitous route possible. There may have been a streakier player in Major League Baseball this season, but I present to you the monthly graphing of Kendrys Morales’ 2013 wOBA:


Talk about feast or famine. He went from Paul Goldschmidt one month to Greg Dobbs the next. Now that overall stat line isn’t a black hole, but it’s probably at best a corner infield position instead of your regular first baseman. Over his career, he’s been a far better left handed hitter, which — good news for Morales — is most of the time. He would probably be most useful in some kind of platoon role, but managing that plus given how unpredictable he was this past season makes him kind of tough to roster.

But what’s probably a given after three seasons of good, but not great, power — is that you shouldn’t be drafting off of his career year anymore, not even if he comes at a great discount. I do think you can hang your hat on 20+ home runs with a good number of RBI and a decent batting average — and in deeper leagues, that can be pretty valuable. But in standard formats, that’s a role player or injury stop-gap.

Just for nostalgia, you can go here to see Tatis hit two grand slams in one inning. If you’re Chan Ho Park, you might want to pass.

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Michael was born in Massachusetts and grew up in the Seattle area but had nothing to do with the Heathcliff Slocumb trade although Boston fans are welcome to thank him. You can find him on twitter at @michaelcbarr.

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“In 1998, the Texas Rangers were in a dogfight with the Anaheim Angels, who at that point in history were not affiliated with the city of Los Angeles.”

I know you were making a funny (and I did chuckle) but the original team name was the Los Angeles Angels.