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May 26, 2019

Switch-hitting Kendrys Morales gives much needed balance to Yankees’ lineup

May 15, 2019

Kendrys Morales was traveling to New York Wednesday afternoon, so he was not on the Yankees’ active roster for the first game of their doubleheader against the Orioles at the Stadium. They were hoping he would be available for the nightcap.

“He’s going to come here and there should be quite a few at-bats for him,” Aaron Boone said. “Obviously the (designated hitter) role will be one of the roles we see, also the ability to play first. I definitely see a good amount of DH at-bats.”

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That’s a very telling comment about why the Yankees made the move and where they see their roster heading in the wake of significant injuries.

Boone said Wednesday afternoon that Miguel Andujar was still pondering his decision to have surgery on his partially torn right labrum. The Yankees’ move to acquire Morales is insurance since the Yankees feel they will be without Andujar for at least a significant portion of the season or that they are not confident he will be able to impact their lineup in the long run.

Andujar had been relegated to the DH role by his poor defense and Gio Urshela emerged not only as an excellent defender, but also a solid hitter. So with Boone saying he sees Morales getting significant time at DH, it makes Andujar in that spot less likely.

Kendrys Morales was picked up by the Yankees shortly after Andujar was placed on the 10-day IL for the second time this season. (Justin Berl/Getty)

It also makes you wonder about the time frame for Giancarlo Stanton, who is working his way back from a biceps strain and strained shoulder. Stanton was used in the DH role significantly last season. Stanton has been out since April 1, but the shoulder issue has made his timeline for a return much murkier.

This move also seems reflective of the Yankees’ attitude that they do not think Greg Bird —who is rehabbing a torn left plantar fascia — will not be able to return and make a significant contribution this season. In fact, Boone was not very optimistic when giving an update on Bird Wednesday afternoon.

“(He’s_ not (doing) baseball activities yet. It’s going slow dealing with that partial tear of the plantar fascia,” Boone said. “So he’s making some progress, I know he’s been on the Alter-G, but not ready to start doing baseball stuff yet.”

But it also balances out the Yankees’ heavily right-handed hitting lineup.

As a switch hitter, Morales can help balance out the lineup, another of the weaknesses the Yankees have been dealing with. Aaron Hicks is the only switch hitter the Yankees had on their 25-man roster and he has yet to play a game this season after starting the year on the injured list. The Yankees’ left-handed hitters were hitting .182 going into Wednesday’s game. Morales is a career .262 left-handed hitter against right-handed pitchers.

Coincidentally, the Yankees, who have not won a World Series since 2009, have not won a World Series with a lineup that features fewer than two switch hitters since 1978. They have won four with multiple switch hitters in their lineup in that time.

Kendrys Morales switch hitting abilities are highly coveted for this season's Battered Bombers.
Kendrys Morales switch hitting abilities are highly coveted for this season’s Battered Bombers. (Justin Berl/Getty)

Before the A’s designated him for assignment on Monday, Morales was hitting .204/.310/.569 with a home run and seven RBI.

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The Yankees’ analytics department think that Morales’ “underlying numbers,” were better than his performances this season. His average exit velocity has been strong at 91.8 miles per hour this season and his barreled balls percentage is 9.0, according to Statcast.

“A good hitter. Obviously a switch hitter, you know to balance out our lineup a little bit,” Boone said. “We feel like, even in Oakland I know the numbers were not great, but we feel like the underlying numbers were a lot better than what he’s done so far. Coming off of a good second-half of the season a year ago. A chance to get a quality major league hitter I think is definitely something that is exciting, especially in the short term right now.”

Morales is a player who has hit 20 home runs in each of his last four seasons. Like they did with Luke Voit last season, the Yankees are hoping to find an offensive spark in this move.

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