By Cole Shelton
Canadian Baseball Network
To begin the 2018 season, the Toronto Blue Jays were a team that everything had to go right for them to make the playoffs, and well, it is fair to say not a whole lot has gone right this season.
Players have been hurt, suspended or simply not played up to standards and to begin the season Kendrys Morales was the latter. For the season, the designated hitter is slashing .250/.328/.432 and has 13 home runs.
Although Morales is not hitting a lot of home runs, the Cuba native is still hitting the ball hard to a tune of 42.5% up from his 37.9% hard-hit rate in 2017 and if you take out his awful first two months to the season, Morales has been one of Toronto’s best hitters.
From opening day until June 12, Morales was slashing .218/.280/.358 and was striking out at an alarming rate of 21.4%. Morales also was rarely getting a hold of the ball as the slugger had just four home runs in April and May combined and his ISO (isolated power) from opening day until June 12 was .139.
Fast forward to now and Morales is back to being a solid middle of the order bat. From June 15 to now, Morales has improved his slash line to .291/.387/.528 while dropping his strikeout rate from 21.4% to 13.3%. He is also walking more, as his walk rate has increased from 8.2% to 13.3%.
Morales is clearly hitting the ball with more authority. In a fewer number of at-bats, Morales had five more hits and eight home runs in June and July than in April and May.
The 35-year-old has always had problems hitting breaking balls and off-speed pitches and he is still struggling with them this season. In 2018, Morales is whiffing on 39.1% of breaking balls and 32.7% of off-speed pitches, while having a batting average of just .151 against breaking balls and hitting only three home runs. The shift has also hurt Morales's stats.
The Blue Jays DH has, however, continued to hit the fastball well and he is still hitting the ball hard and getting a good launch on the ball.
So even though he struggled early on, Morales has turned his season around and will look to continue his success and end his 2018 season strong.