One of the big "what ifs" surrounding the Angels big deadline deal for Mark Teixeira last season was, "what if they can't re-sign Tex?" Casey Kotchman established himself as a solid Major League first baseman in 2008 and he was sent to Atlanta as part of that deal, so much of the talk centered on who would play first base if (when, really) Teixeira signed elsewhere. I can honestly say I wasn't one of those really worried about losing Kotch. Not that I didn't like his game and his Gold Glove-caliber defense, I just had faith that our switch-hitting Cuban defector, who was quietly putting together back-to-back seasons of .341 hitting at Triple-A Salt Lake wouldn't be a step down, offensively, at least.
It was a tough sell for many in Halo Nation, as Kendry never really impressed numbers-wise in his brief stints with the big club. He hit just .234 in 197 ABs in 2006, his first taste of Major League pitching. He got only 119 ABs the following season, but posted a .294 average and 4 HR. Last season, with Kotchman pretty much entrenched at 1B, Morales got only 61 ABs with the Angels posting a meager .213 average. So when Teixeira did what many expected and headed East to play with the Yankees, the Angels were seemingly left with a gaping hole at 1B with not much available on the free agent market. But Mike Scioscia and Tony Reagins knew the answer was already in the organization, patiently biding his time becoming more and more accustomed to baseball in the States. Kendry Morales was ready.
After last night's game in Seattle, Kendry has played in 163 Major League games with 513 ABs. He has career numbers of .259-20HR-71RBI. Not bad for a guy who defected from Cuba, had to get acclimated to life in the U.S. without his family, and then spent most of his time bouncing around the different levels of the minors before getting sporadic ABs at the big league level. Now the Angels everyday first baseman, Kendry has had a solid start to the season, hitting .287 with 8 HR and 26 RBI. His defense hasn't really been an issue either. While he has committed 2 errors, he's looked pretty comfortable and is making all the digs you'd expect a Major League first baseman to make.
The obvious knock on Kendry is that he doesn't walk much. He's up there to put the ball in play and he does that on a pretty consistent basis. He strikes out a bit too much, but nothing too alarming, 28 times so far this season, and his lowly .327 on-base percentage will probably keep him down in the order, 5th or lower. But this Angels team has plenty of middle-of-the-order guys with Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and the red hot Torii Hunter. Kendry is doing his best to make the Angels lineup more potent from top to bottom, along with Mike Napoli, and with his nice start, is putting many Angels fans minds at ease as far as first base goes.