February 4, 2013
Monday, February 4
The Super Bowl is now behind us, and that means that spring training is only one week away. As teams ponder some final pre-camp tweaks to their rosters, here are two stories that surfaced over the weekend.
Multiple teams exploring trade for Franklin Morales
A former Rockie, Morales—who was acquired by the Red Sox in May of 2011—had made only 15 career starts entering the 2012 season, when he tacked nine more onto that tally. In 46 total appearances, the 27-year-old lefty logged a career-best 23.4 percent strikeout rate and issued free passes to only 9.2 percent of the batters that he faced, his lowest walk rate since an eight-start cup of coffee in 2007. The teams that have placed calls to general manager Ben Cherington to gauge Morales’ price tag most likely would view him as a starter, but despite the progress that he made last year, his ability to succeed in that role over the course of a full season remains unclear.
Morales’ occasional bouts of wildness are one concern, but his ineffectiveness against right-handed batters could be a more difficult hurdle to clear. He held opposing lefties to a .197 TAv in 2012, but coughed up a .276 TAv to righties, and those numbers are relatively consistent with his career data. In his 2008 list of the Rockies top prospects, Kevin Goldstein ranked Morales as the best minor leaguer in the system, labeling him “an upper-echelon big-league starter.” Unfortunately, most of the warts that stood between the then-22-year-old Morales and that lofty ceiling—including fastball command and erratic off-speed offerings—have continued to hinder his performance.
Morales’ walk percentage against righties (9.9 percent) last year was not terribly far from his overall rate, but he was felled by a disproportionate volume of extra-base hits. He faced 113 lefties and 212 righties, and while the former group managed just one double and one home run, the latter bunch teed off for eight doubles, a triple, and 10 home runs. And despite the fact that Morales is one of the hardest-throwing lefties in the league, most of the long-ball damage (eight of the 10) came off of his fastball.
With all of that said, there are a couple of redeeming factors for Morales, which might inspire needy teams to give him another chance. One is that, after three years of working almost exclusively in relief, he may simply need a more consistent rest pattern and regular exposure to opposite-handed batters in order to hone his command and develop a less-vulnerable approach. The other is that Morales served up seven of the aforementioned 10 home runs in a pair of starts against the Yankees, both of which came under less-than-ideal circumstances. The first, at Fenway Park on July 7, came just two days after a 1 1/3-inning relief stint versus the A’s; the second, at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 17, came a week before he was placed on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue, an ailment that would ultimately end his season.