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Is Kendrys Morales any good?

Let’s consider these two players:

Player A:

Player B:

What if I told you that this was in fact the same player? It is.

The above charts are Kendrys Morales’ 2019 season told in two very different ways. The chart on top shows what has actually happened. Not impressive at all (64 wRC+, -0.3 WAR). That’s right, a NEGATIVE WAR. The Yankees acquired him recently from the Oakland A’s for basically nothing. The chart on the bottom shows his “expected” stats based on launch angle and exit velocity. Statcast has data on every single batted ball since 2015, and the chart on the bottom is basically saying “based on past results, this is what should have happened.” Teams all over the league are using this type of data to evaluate players now, and it looks like the Yankees are trying to take advantage of a buy-low candidate here. All data is courtesy of Baseball Savant.

Quality of Contact

Here is where Morales ranks on his quality of contact compared to the league:

A few things that stand out here:

  1. Morales is laughably slow (4th percentile).
  2. A “hard hit” is any batted ball hit over 95-mph. Morales is in the top 86th percentile.
  3. His expected weighted on base average (xWOBA) is in the top 77th percentile. xWOBA is one of the best metrics to measure overall offensive performance.

The difference between what he has done, and what Statcast has expected him to do, lies almost entirely on his slugging percentage.

Which Morales are the Yankees getting?

I’m not sure if the difference you see in his actual slugging-percentage and expected slugging-percentage is just bad luck, a product of playing at the Coliseum for half of his games, or a little of both. There is also talk amongst scouts saying that the A’s have worn Morales down asking him to play first base too often (26 out of 34 starts). He has been mostly a DH in his career. Boone said there are plenty of at bats for Morales, but the Yankees will use him almost exclusively as a DH, so I think that is another reason to expect a rebound. The advanced metrics listed above are exactly why the Yankees — and their nerds — have acquired him. They think the poor traditional stats he has put up this season are more or less a fluke.

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