Bobby Abreu is an unhappy guy right now. His role with the Angels will be diminished since the Angels signed Albert Pujols. The Pujols signing created a domino effect that pushed Mark Trumbo off of first base and into an already crowded outfield picture. The picture gets further complicated by the expected return of Kendrys Morales from an injury saga that resulted on a leap of joy following a walk off home run early in the 2010 season. Morales is being pushed as the designated hitter. But Bobby Abreu should sit tight. To expect any kind of comeback from Morales seems like very long odds.
It is not historically unusual for a player to miss as much time as Morales has and come back to be productive. Heck, during and after World War II, it happened all the time. In more recent times, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals missed a long time and came back to be a terrific starter for that team. But even so, the injury to Kendrys Morales involved one of his wheels and the guy is only recently getting back to running and will soon test his recovery by running the bases. Does that sound as scary to you as it does here? The legs are the most important aspect of a ball player. A pitcher gets his drive from his legs and the same for a batter. And Morales has had multiple surgeries on his injured ankle. It's one thing to consider running. It's another to consider starting from that far back to actually playing the game.
For fascinating stuff, simply look at projections for Morales for 2012. Bill James is typically bullish. The zen master projects Morales to hit a slash line of, .296/.341/.504 in 141 games played. Holy cow! If Morales could come close to that number of games played and production, the Angels should regain the top spot in the division. But is that realistic? Not from this basement office chair.
ZiPS projections are a bit more cautious. That projection has Morales at, .274/.321/.455 in 87 games. RotoChamp is even more ambitious than Bill James and projects Morales at, .298/.356/.528 in 436 plate appearances. Steamer Projections seem to be the most cautious with a projection of only 246 plate appearances at, .282/.338/.484. To round out our projection field, we end at Baseball Prospectus which has Morales at, .283/.328/.469 in 350 plate appearances.
All these projections listed, even the most cautious, assume that Morales will be able to come back and be immediately close to as effective a hitter as he was before he was injured. The most cautious still thinks he will attain 246 plate appearances while doing so. That seems like a stretch to anyone's imagination. Granted, those people are all smart people. They have all earned the respect they have in the baseball writing and analysis world. But this observer thinks they are all crazy on this one.
First, Kendrys Morales has to prove he can even play baseball again. He hasn't done that yet. So that is still an open question. Secondly, once Morales can prove he can play baseball, to expect him to play close to his former ability after nearly two years of an absence seems a stretch.
Look, we all root for the comeback story and therefore, we all hope that Kendrys Morales can resume what was once a promising career. That career was derailed in one of the freakiest accidents ever to occur on a baseball field. But the reality is that Morales first has to prove he is physically able to play and then prove he can still perform at the high level that all these folks expect. If this writer was a betting man, Bobby Abreu should keep his bat and batting gloves warm in 2012. He's going to need them more than the Angels think.