Breakout Candidates: Kendry Morales

April 2, 2009

By James Bailey

Kendry Morales, 1B, Los Angeles
Age: 26, until June 20
Key number: .332, his batting average in 1,220 minor league at-bats

A much-ballyhooed signing out of Cuba in November 2004, Morales has yet to live up to the hype more than four years later. One of Cuba’s most accomplished players in recent memory, he was expected by some to step right into the Angels lineup. Instead, he’s spent all or part of his four seasons in the minors. He’s hit .332 in 1,220 minor league at-bats, mostly at Triple-A Salt Lake, but this looks to be his first serious shot at big league playing time. Casey Kotchman, whose defense helped keep earning him the nod over Morales, was shipped to Atlanta last summer for Mark Teixeira, who evacuated LA for big bucks in the Bronx this winter. Morales is the last man standing. He’s showed a little power in his 127 big league games, popping 12 homers and 22 doubles, but his .249 average is a far cry from what he’s done on the farm. The 25-year-old switch-hitter batted .213 with just five extra-base hits in 27 major league games last season, though his minor league success suggests he may bat closer to .294/.333/.479, his numbers in a 43-game stint with the Angels in 2007. Don’t look for a huge breakout or much more than 15 home runs, but Morales could hit for average and post solid overall numbers. He’s a better hitter from the left side, but the Angels are convinced he’ll be strong enough against lefties that they don’t plan to find a platoon partner for him.