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(So Far), the Angels Look Like They Made the Right Moves

kendry moralesIt may be too early to tell at this point, but so far, the Angels kept their most productive 1st baseman that they had, even though he was sitting behind Casey Kotchman and Mark Teixeira for the duration of the season.

As Angel fans remember, the Halos acquired the talented and powerful switch-hitting Mark Teixeira from the Atlanta Braves in exchange for then-Angel 1st baseman Casey Kotchman and a pitcher in Steve Marek. First-year GM Tony Reagins did what Bill Stoneman never did, which was make a big mid-season offensive splash. I thought this was going to be the move that would put the Angels over the top and win a World Championship. As it turns out, the Angels would win 100 games for the 1st time in the franchise’s history, and secure the best overall record in the majors, only to get bounced in the 1st round by the Red Sox… again.

Make no mistake about it, Tex put up great numbers in his breif stay as a Halo, before he bounced for the pinstripes… and a $180 million contract.

In 54 games as an Angel, Teixeira hit .358 (69-193) with 13 home runs, 43 RBI, 14 doubles, 39 runs scored, 32 walks, and 23 strikeouts.

Now let’s compute this out to what those numbers would have looked like if he had played all 162 games with the Angels at that pace.

Teixeira has averaged 569 at-bats in his 6 full MLB seasons, which equates to stats of:

.358 avg./204 hits/38 home runs/127 RBI/41 doubles/115 runs scored/94 walks/68 strikeouts

That’s a damn productive year, a type of year that the Angels hadn’t had outside of Vladimir Guerrero in quite some time.

Casey Kotchman didn’t exactly fare to well in the end of the ’08 season with the Braves.

In 43 games, Kotch hit .237 (36-152) with 2 home runs, 20 RBI, 4 doubles, 1 triple, 18 runs scored, 18 walks, and 16 strikeouts.

If Kotchman had 569 at-bats in a season at that rate, he would’ve put up numbers that look like this:

.237 avg./7 home runs/75 RBI/15 doubles/67 runs scored/67 walks/60 strikeouts

Just a little bit of a difference between Tex and Kotch last year.

But enough about then, let’s focus on the here and now.

Tex has been struggling mightily with the bat since he’s put on the Yankee pinstripes.

Kotchman is hitting for a higher average, but has only driven in 4 runs in 25 games.

And then there’s Kendry Morales, the 25-year-old switch-hitting 1st baseman who the Angels have coveted for years, who finally gets his chance ┬áin ’09 with Kotchman and Teixeira out of town. The Cuban native was nothing but raw talent when the Angels signed him to a 6-year deal back on December 1st of 2005. Morales had many troubles getting out of the Dominican Republic initially, facing problems with needing a passport to gain citizenship after deferring to the Dominican Republic back in August of ’05. After developing his game and waiting in the wings for his chance to come, when Mark Teixeira signed that fat old 9-year, $180 million contract with the Yankees, Morales was instantly pinned as the Opening Day starter at 1st base. After a decently slow start, Morales has picked it up since and has been rolling of late.

Here’s a little side-by-side comparison of what the 3 1st baseman have done so far this year entering today:

Kotchman (25 games)- .289 avg./.366 OBP/.398 SLG/0 HR/4 RBI/9 2B/0 3B/9 XBH/8 runs/9 BB/9 K

Teixeira (22 games)- .182 avg./.354 OBP/.338 SLG/3 HR/10 RBI/3 2B/0 3B/6 XBH/12 runs/19 BB/13 K

Morales (22 games)- .280 avg./.330 OBP/.537 SLG/4 HR/ 16 RBI/7 2B/1 3B/12 XBH/13 runs/6 BB/18 K

Kotchman is the top man in 4 categories (batting average, on-base perecentage, doubles, and fewest strikeouts).

Teixeira is tops in terms of walks.

Morales has the best stats in the other 6 categories (slugging percentage, home runs, runs batted in, triples, extra-base hits, and runs).

The Angels took a few steps back in terms of defensive production they’re getting out of their 1st baseman, considering the fact that Teixeira was a 2-time Gold Glover back in ’05 and ’06 with the Rangers, and Kotchman is currently one of the soundest defensive 1st basemen in all of the MLB. Morales’ biggest weakness is no doubt his defense. He only has 1 error on the year, whereas Kotchman and Teixeira are yet to make an error, but what you can’t point out is the amount of potential extra-base hits that Kotch and Tex are knocking down and turning in to outs that Morales just doesn’t have the ability to do.

On the bright side, there’s no doubt that he’s been the superior offensive player compared to the other two. He has more home runs and RBI than Kotchman and Teixeira have combined.

Morales is the youngest of the three at the ripe age of 25, and has an incredibly high ceiling in terms of potential to be reached. You are hard-pressed to find switch-hitters who hit for power consistently, and Morales has the capability to become Mark Teixeira-esque, but without as good of an eye at the plate. Morales is a free-swinger, which is what the Angels lineup is full of.

If Morales can be a productive #6 hitter, with guys like Howie Kendrick, Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter hitting 2-3-4-5 in front of him (when all are healthy), he’ll have plenty of RBI opportunities.

The future has a lot in store for KMo, and I truly believe that he could become one of the most productive offensive first baseman in the game in only a matter of years.

So far in the early goings of this 2009 season, hats off to Tony Reagins and company; they picked the most productive and least expensive player of the 3 to be their everyday 1st baseman: Kendry Morales.

Not to mention the fact that they are saving about $19 million dollars this year alone in comparison of Teixeira’s ’09 salary and Morales’ 2009 salary.

Keep it up, Kendry, don’t make me and the whole Halo front office for that matter, look stupid for thinking that they made the right choice, both present and long-term.

This kid’s gonna be something special, make no mistake about it.

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