Exhibit A in the depreciation of the home run: Kendrys Morales. Although he hit 28 long balls, Morales ended up grading out as a slightly below-average real-life hitter last season (97 wRC+). His strikeout and walk rates both went in the wrong direction -- he posted a middling 7.1 percent walk rate and 21.7 percent strikeout rate -- and Morales grounded into 20-plus double plays for a third straight season. He did turn in a top-30 hard-hit rate among qualifiers and continued to crush lefties, but Morales' numbers against right-handed pitching were downright bad (.216/.280/.400). Even so, Morales should continue to play close to every day in 2018, and that playing time affords him the opportunity to compile useful counting totals in the fantasy game. The problem is that those numbers are not quite as valuable in today's offensive environment, and of course, taking him means plugging up the UTIL spot relatively early.
Morales is hitting .207/.258/.379 with one home run and eight strikeouts in 29 at-bats this spring. It's a tiny sample, but his draft-day price tag remains very affordable as Morales has had a quiet start to Grapefruit League play. Since Feb. 1, Morales' NFBC ADP is 307.6, as it seems that fantasy owners are banking on his 2017 season being the start of a decline phase, instead of an outlier. Even as a UTIL-only bat, he is a good buy in that range as long as he can reach or approach the 600-plus plate appearance threshold for the fourth straight year in his age 34/35 season.
Morales isn't in the lineup Sunday against the Yankees. Jose Bautista will serve as designated hitter with Morales sitting out. Morales saw his batting average fall from 2016's mark of .263 to .250 during his first season with the Blue Jays. However, his power remained intact as he slugged 28 home runs and notched 85 RBI.
Morales went 2-for-5 with his 28th home run of the year -- a two-run shot -- against the Red Sox on Tuesday. So ends a 17-game power outage. He's credibly followed up last season's 30-homer, 93-RBI campaign, as Morales will finish close to both those figures; his RBI total is now at 84. The veteran DH hasn't helped owners in batting average or OBP, but he hasn't been bad enough in those categories to detract from his power contributions.
Morales is out of the lineup for Friday's matchup against the Yankees, Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca reports. Miguel Montero will be used as Toronto's DH in place of Morales on Friday night. Over his last 10 games Morales has slashed .306/.342/.361 and driven in three runs while scoring once.
Morales is out of the lineup Sunday against the Twins. Jose Bautista will occupy the designated hitter spot as Morales gets the day off. Since the start of September, Morales has slashed .219/.261/.459, with each mark being below his season line of .249/.305/.450.
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