Kendrys Morales may have had an off year in 2017, at least compared to what the Blue Jays were expecting from him, but he’s still the best option this team has to be hitting in the clean-up spot as long as Josh Donaldson and Justin Smoak are locked in at the 2 and 3 spots in the order.
No longer can Blue Jay fans be thinking this team would be better off with Edwin Encarnacion instead of Morales. Encarnacion is long gone, and for the next two seasons, Toronto is committed to Morales. Whether people like it or not.
We all know that Morales is no Encarnacion. But at the same time, Morales is capable of being a heck of a lot better than what he showed in his 1st season with the Blue Jays. The version of Morales the Blue Jays will need moving forwards is the player he was with Kansas City back in 2015 and 2016. That player was the reason Ross Atkins was willing to step-up and offer a hefty 3-year/$33 million contract to someone who can barely run and offers little defensively.
Morales is a professional hitter, and unlike everyday position players who can make-up for slumps at the plate by playing solid defense, Morales can’t do that. So when he’s struggling offensively, he contributes next to nothing on this ball club.
For Morales to be most effective as a clean-up hitter, he doesn’t always have to be trying to hit the ball 450 ft like he appeared to be doing last season. Ever since his horrific leg injury in 2010, the best Morales has played was in 2015 when he was focused less on power, and more on hitting for AVG and improving his OBP. In 2015, Morales only hit 22 HR, but he still racked-up 106 RBI and hit for an impressive .290 AVG and .362 OBP.
As the Blue Jays clean-up hitter, Morales doesn’t always have to be trying for the long ball. He needs to understand that he’s at his best when he finds more of a balance between hitting for contact and power. Toronto doesn’t expect Morales to be the second coming of Edwin Encarnacion, nor should he have it in his head that he needs to replace the 3-time all-star. All the Blue Jays need from Morales is for him to be the player he was while with the Royals.