Ready or not? That is the big question that faces Kendrys Morales this season. He's already failed his first test and landed on the DL to start the year, but can Morales rehab quickly and set himself up for a big comeback season?
2010 Stats: 193 AB, .290 AVG, .346 OBP, .487 SLG, 29 R, 11 HR, 39 RBI, 0 SB
2011 ZiPS Projections: 378 AB, .283 AVG, .330 OBP, .476 SLG, 48 R, 17 HR, 63 RBI, 1 SB
2011 Bill James Projections: 544 AB, .296 AVG, .343 OBP, .507 SLG, 75 R, 27 HR, 95 RBI, 1 SB
2011 Marcel Projections: 368 AB, .286 AVG, .340 OBP, .491 SLG, 48 R, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 2 SB
2011 MWaH Projections*: 425 AB, .274 AVG, .326 OBP, .459 SLG, 60 R, 17 HR, 72 RBI, 0 SB
*The MWaH projections are simply my best guess based off my own personal opinion and research
2010 in Review: Something weird happened with Kendrys last season, but the incident seems to escape my memory right now. Does anyone else remember? Eh, I'm sure it was nothing. Oh, wait, it is coming back to me now. I am seeing flashes of Morales on the ground clutching his ankle while the rest of the team stares at him. Darn, I thought I had repressed that memory. Before that fateful walk-off grand slam, Kendrys was having another very nice season, perhaps not quite as good as his 2009 campaign, but there was little doubt that Morales had cemented his status as the Angels' franchise cornerstone. Oddly enough, the Angels actually didn't suffer too much in terms of winning percentage after Morales went down, but considering how the team offense practically imploded in the second half of the season, one can't help but wonder if the Halos could've given the Rangers more of a run for their money had Kendrys still been in the heart of the lineup.
Three Lingering Questions for 2011:
- When will Kendrys be ready? We all know that Morales is starting the season on the DL, but how long will he be stuck there? It sounded like he was relatively close to being ready to play in the spring before he suffered his toe injury setback (if that is even the real truth), so can he really be that far off? Or will the Angels slow down his comeback now that he is already on the DL to make sure he stays healthy all season long? Be it two weeks, a month or more, Angel fans will be watching very closely to see when the team is going to get their big bat back.
- Will Morales actually be fully healthy this season (or ever)? While it might seem like Morales is close to being ready to play, there has to be some real concern that Kendrys won't be ready for Opening Day. Back when he first got hurt, there was actual thought that he might be back by September, yet now he still isn't fully healthy so one can't help but wonder if he'll even be 100% recovered when he does come off the DL or if he'll ever be the same player again after suffering such a devastating injury.
- Is Kendrys even as good as we thought he was after 2009? Not to be Debbie Downer, but it is worth pointing out that Morales actually took a small step backwards in 2009 even before his injury. His ISO in 2009 was .263, but that fell down to .197 in his abbreviated 2010 campaign. That is still pretty good, but it is a good bit off from his MVP-caliber season. So, there has to be at least some thought that Morales may never quite be MVP-level good again even if he does get completely healthy again.
What to Expect in 2011: As we all just learned by Kendrys' recent placement on the disabled list, this whole broken ankle situation isn't nearly resolved yet. Clearly the Halos want to be careful with Kendrys as they probably could've just left him on the active roster and slowly worked him in at DH rather than shelving him for at least two weeks. This leads me to believe that they aren't being totally honest with us about how his recovery is really going. I think that Kendrys will come off the DL in the month of April as expected, but I would not be the least bit surprised if he spends a fair amount of time at designated hitter while still getting scheduled days off for the first several weeks of this return.
If there is a ray of hope here, it is that the Angels have said all along that Kendrys' hitting is just fine and that he could DH right away if not for the whole running the bases thing. Maybe that is just bluster to make the fans less wary, but I am going to choose to believe it. However, that doesn't mean all will be will for Morales. His swing might be fine, but he obviously still has to build up stamina and strenght in his leg and body as a whole, so don't be surprised if he has some pretty big ups and downs throughout this year as he battles fatigue and lingering issues in his leg, even with the Angels doing their best to manage his playing time.
That might sound disappointing to you, but I am going to end this prediction on a high note in that I believe Morales will finish 2011 on a high note as well. I figure that by September he'll have cleared the final hurdles in his recovery and only then be at a place where he would admit he is 100% healthy. It will probably be too little too late for the Angels' post-season hopes at that point, but it should set them up very nicely for 2012.