By Chuck Richter - Angelswin.com Executive Editor
Kotchman was the Angels top prospect in the organization for years before he was given a full time gig after the club let Darin Erstad walk at the conclusion of the 2006 season. Injuries derailed his chance at playing a full season for the Halos while he was in Anaheim, but the club remained high on his ability to be an elite hitter in the middle of the lineup. So did the Braves, thankfully.
With the Braves through 29 games Kotchman has a decent batting average of .289 and a .363 on base pct., but as I mentioned years ago when everyone was fascinated with his ability to become a middle of the order slugger, comparing him to a young power hitting version of Todd Helton, he's yet to hit a HR this season and though he's batted 4th, 5th and 6th on the 2009 season, he has just 4 RBI's.
The late July trade for Mark Teixeira was a good one, not only because it gave the Angels a chance at winning it all with Teixeira on the team, equipped to bring the lumber against the Red Sox hurlers in October, but in addition to that it gave Morales the job at 1B the following season, something I've been looking forward to since the day Eddie Bane signed him out of Cuba more than four years ago, then months later see him make his debut for the Angels in person club with a double and opposite field home run with the High-A Ball Rancho Cucamonga Quakes while sitting with our very own Scott Thurman in the stands.
I've always thought Morales would be a better fit for the Angels offensively over Kotchman mainly because of the run producer Morales can be. I've always maintained that Kotchman is more of a Sean Casey/Keith Hernandez type offensively with above average defense. I'm excited for Kotchman the person that he has a starting job in the big leagues, but this fan and blogger is thrilled that he's living out his dream on another ball club. Kotchman we know, but give me more K-Mo. Especially since we're not getting any power from SS, 3B or heck, even LF/RF this season. We have just one home run through a month of the season from Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu and Gary Matthews Jr., with Rivera providing the only dinger thus far.
When at the plate Morales just looks like he's going to kill the ball the way he loads up for a pitch from both sides of the plate. He has opposite field power and he seems to thrive in the clutch throughout his minor league career and in sample sizes early on in his major league career. So far, between Casey Kotchman, Mark Teixeira & Kendry Morales - Morales has over powered the two former Halos in terms of slugging pct. and HR's. Morales has a .537 slugging pct through a months' worth of ball games, something exciting for all Angels fans who are familiar with Morales' traditional slow starts in the minors. Kotchman's slugging pct. resembles what we've been used to seeing from Darin Erstad at .400 thus far.
Morales defensively isn't what we're used to, his lack of of athleticism around the first base bag won't snag many would-be doubles down the line or singles between first and second, but let's face it, we've been spoiled by the likes of Darin Erstad, Scott Speizio, Casey Kotchman and most recently Mark Teixeira, all top tier defensively. Yet besides Teixeira we received no power from that position over the last several years. I believe Morales defense will improve over time as he's not below average out there by no means. Down the road I envision Morales becoming an above average defender, though probably not a gold glover, with more time at first base. According to the Angels coaching staff, he works as hard as anyone on his defense in practice.
Tony Reagins and Co. made the right move last July before the trading deadline, a decision that was nearly FAIL proof in my opinion. Could slugger Brandon Wood be the next to benefit from a trade of another defensive infielder with no power next? One can only hope, but for now I'm excited about K-Mo's contributions in the middle of the order going forward.