Friday, August 31, 2007
Get to Know 'Em
Good morning! Actually, this is being posted on Thursday evening as yet again, I will be headed out of town, this time for a nice four day weekend! Labor Day weekend is great in some ways, an extra day off of work, time at the lake or with family. Of course, for those teachers and students, it is a not so gentle reminder that school is about to begin again! For baseball fans, it marks September, and team's rights to bring up anyone on their 40 man roster.
With that in mind, I thought the timing of today's posting was pretty important. One player who I believe should be first added to the Twins 40 man roster and then called up for September is Jose Morales. The 24 year old catcher is having a remarkable season for the Rochester Red Wings. Just this week, he was named to the International League's post-season All-Star team and is still in contention for the league's batting title. I know his name has started to be discussed by some in the Twins community, but today I want to put the focus on him as he certainly deserves it.
Jose Morales was born in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico, back in 1983. He went to Academia de Providencia High School. The Twins drafted him in the third inning of the 2001 Major League Draft. You may wonder why they would take a high school catcher two rounds after taking Joe Mauer with the first overall pick of that same draft. However, Morales was drafted as a middle infielder. He signed quickly and reported to the GCL Twins where he played 23 games at 2B, nine games at shortstop and three games at 3B.
He returned to the GCL team and played in 42 games at 2B and eight games at 3B in 2002. After hitting just .248 his first year, he hit .309 in 2002. It was then in 2003 when the Twins moved Morales to catcher. He started the season with Low-A Quad Cities, but he spent most of May with the Ft. Myers Miracle. In 48 games with the Swing of Quad Cities, he hit .271. In his 12 games played for the Miracle, he hit .357. His season came to an end in mid-August when he was put on the Disabled List with a strained back. In 48 games.
He spent all of 2004 with the Ft. Myers Miracle, and he hit .286/.339/.386 in 91 games. He was a Florida State League All Star and as important as anything, he threw out 42% (43-103) of would-be base stealers. He naturally moved up to New Britain to start the 2005 season. Unfortunately, he spent three weeks on the DL in April with a knee ligament strain. He played for about a week and a half before going on the DL on May 5th with a strained back and he missed the remainder of the season.
2006 was a very interesting year for Morales. If you look at his year-end numbers, you will not be impressed. In 80 games, he hit .215/.280/.319. That isn't good. However, when you realize that at one point about two months into the season, he was hitting about .050, his numbers are not so bad. On September 1st, Morales was promoted to Rochester because Chris Heintz was called up to the Twins and Shawn Wooten left the team because of an "injury." He played in two games.
That brings us to 2007. Morales began the year with the Red Wings, and maybe it is confidence, or maybe he is fully healthy. In either case, Jose Morales is having a remarkable season. He became the Red Wings first catcher to make the International League's postseason All-Star team. Through Wednesday's game, he was hitting .315/.372/.404 with 24 doubles, a triple, two homers and 35 RBI. He has hit .335/.396/.451 as a left-handed batter while hitting .309/.321/.370 as a righty. He hit .436 in April and hit over .300 in each month except August.
So, so far we know that he has had an up-and-down minor league career. He has shown signs that he could be a future big leaguer in the past. Unfortunately, he has also missed significant time because of injury, so truly evaluating him has not been real possible. So, the success that Morales has had in 2007 is somewhat surprising, or at least the level of his success. In listening to the likes of Terry Ryan and Jim Rantz, they sounded very hesitant throughout the season to promote Morales. They always seemed like they were looking for him to struggle and fall back down to earth. And sure, his average has come down some, but I think that Morales has had a very good season and at this point appears to be a guy who can now be considered the organization's number three pitcher. It seems as though they are keeping Heintz around as an honorary backup catcher of sorts (even though they don't play him when he does come up) and call him up when Mauer goes down. My guess is that they have done that to allow Morales to continue to play most days at Rochester and not break up his good streak. But as soon as the Rochester season is over, I would expect that the Twins will add Jose Morales to the 40 man roster and call him up for the final weeks of the season. He has certainly earned it and would have to be protected in the offseason anyway.
But again, so far you have seen statistics and injury reports. How about a first-hand account of the type of player and teammate that Jose Morales has been. For that, I have asked the opinion of Kevin Slowey. Slowey told me that Morales caught him in all but one game this season for the Red Wings:
I feel like he has done a great job. I'm not sure if he still counts as unheralded after being voted to both mid-season and post season IL all star teams. Overall he has really developed the feel for calling games, which means a lot coming from a pitcher... and defensively he's been great, I know if I give him a chance to get a base runner... he'll come through just about every time. Offensively, he's one of the guys you would rather not throw to... a switch hitter with good plate discipline and a willingness to hit to all fields. As a pitcher, there isn't any one way to get him out, which makes it tough.
To me, the question is no longer if, but when Jose Morales will become a Twins player. One thing that I do question or wonder about is whether this Jose Morales is of any relation to the Puerto Rican Jose Morales that was a pinch hitter and DH for the Twins from 1978-1980?
Hopefully this posting has alerted you to something you did not know about Jose Morales, or at least give you a little background on a guy who will likely be making his first Twins appearance in the very near future.
With that, I am heading out of town for a long weekend. Please be sure to leave any questions or Comments below. Talk about the Twins games or any thoughts on them. Please give any Minor League updates that you see if no one else has. And, have a great Labor Day weekend. Of course, you are very welcome to e-mail me at any time and I will get back to you as soon as I can.|
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