Judging the Royals

Kendrys Morales: Why you might want a player with bad numbers

Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales was congratulated after his two-run home run in the sixth inning Sunday against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium.
Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales was congratulated after his two-run home run in the sixth inning Sunday against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. jsleezer@kcstar.com

In 2014 Kendrys Morales played with the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners and had a combined .218 batting average. He also had 42 RBIs and a grand total of eight home runs. If you wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt you could point out Morales was limited to 367 at-bats, but his numbers were still underwhelming.

So when Dayton Moore signed Morales to play for the Royals in 2015, fans reacted like the Royals GM had just bought a timeshare condo in Chernobyl. Many fans assumed Morales was washed up; Dayton and the Royals believed Morales would bounce back.

That’s one way teams can find something of a bargain: Look for players who have performed at a high level, seen their marketplace value drop for whatever reason (and hitting .218 will do the trick), but are healthy, motivated and young enough to bounce back and perform at a high level once again.

In 2015 Morales bounced back in a big way: .290 batting average, 22 home runs and 106 RBIs.

On Sunday against the Chicago White Sox, Morales collected the 1,000th hit of his career; a home run that made it all the way into one of Kauffman Stadium’s fountains. If you’re a Royals fan you probably already know Morales had an extended slump from the left side of the plate this season, but Sunday’s home run was his 27th of the year, and he now has 81 RBIs.

So next time a team signs a player and you wonder why anyone would want a guy who put up bad numbers the previous year, remember: The team might want the guy because he put up bad numbers the previous year. Those bad numbers depress a player’s cost, and the team is betting that player will bounce back.

Just like Kendrys Morales.

Billy Burns: action guy

Someone recently asked why the Royals would give up Brett Eibner for Billy Burns, and in the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, Burns provided an answer. Burns was on first base when Whit Merrifield doubled, and Burns scored — standing up. By the time the Sox got the ball back to the infield, Burns was slapping palms with the on-deck hitter.

Burns can run, and that makes him an “action guy.”

Look at the Royals lineup on Sunday, and there in the middle were Eric Hosmer, Kendrys Morales, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon. Gordon has seven stolen bases, Hosmer has five and Morales and Perez — thank the good Lord and Rusty Kuntz — have not attempted even one. Throw Cheslor Cuthbert or Mike Moustakas in there, and five-ninths of the Royals offense isn’t inclined to steal a bag on most days.

In a park the size of Kauffman Stadium, the Royals don’t believe they’re going to power their way to an awful lot of victories, so they value speed and the pressure it brings to bear on the other teams’ pitching and defense.

After the Royals went up 2-0 on the New York Mets in the World Series, I asked a front office guy what he thought of their chances. He said that if the Royals hit the ball on the ground, they’d win. The Royals planned on pressuring the Mets defense with speed, and it worked.

So if you were wondering why the Royals wanted Billy Burns, it’s because Burns is an action guy.

An action guy is someone who can steal a base, go first to third, second to home, score from first on a double or put down a bunt for a base hit. Action guys give you options; guys who can’t run have to swing away and if they get on base, then have to wait for someone else to move them into scoring position and then wait for someone else to drive them in. Action guys can also cover a lot of ground on defense, and when the Kansas City Royals play a home game, they’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover.

The Royals like to pressure the other teams’ defense, and guys who can run allow them to do that. Plus “Billy Burns: Action Guy” sounds pretty cool.

If Billy gets his own comic book, I’ll let you know.

30-home-run guys

Back to hitting home runs for a moment: There’s a decent chance Kendrys Morales will become the first Royal to hit 30 home runs since the discovery of fire, and that reminded me of something Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said back when his team was in Kansas City.

Gibby thought that if they played in the American League East, Kendrys Morales, Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas had the potential to be 30-home-run guys. Feel free to disagree, but when it comes to home runs hit at home, four of those AL East parks are currently in the top five, and Tampa Bay is seventh.

OK, that’s it for now: Time to pack up and head to the ballpark. The Royals play a makeup day game against the White Sox today, and if you feel like playing hooky, come out and join me.

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