Because of the ongoing saga with Joe Mauer, and the high likelihood that he will not start the season up North, I am starting a series of profiles of the three most likely candidates to replace him in the start of the season: José Morales, Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos. This is the first of the 3 and it profiles José Morales. Drew Butera and Wilson Ramos will follow tomorrow and Friday.
José Morales turned 26 years old last February 20th. He was drafted by the Twins in the 3rd round in 2001 out of Academia de Providencia High School. He is Puerto Rican, and Puerto Ricans (unlike the other Latin Americans) are subjected to the Major League amateur draft. He was drafted as a second baseman and played 2 years as a second baseman with the Gulf Coast Twins in 2001 and 2002. In 2001 he hit .248/.285/.333 in 117 AB and in 2002 .309/.335/.371 in 175 AB. The next year, the switch-hitter was converted into a catcher and started the season with the Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League, A), where he hit .271/.291/.376 in 179 AB and hit his first 2 professional career home runs. Once the River Bandits' season was over, he played 12 games with Miracle at Ft. Myers in the Florida State league (high A) where he had 42 AB and hit .357/.372/.476 (.848 OPS). In this season, Morales played 33 games as a catcher, 4 games at 3B and 4 games a 2B. That stint at Ft. Myers opened a lot of eyes and Morales was fast-tracked as a catcher. It was his age 20 season and the last time that Morales would take the field without catcher's gear (other than one inning with the Rock Cats at second base in 2006).
In 2004 Morales was the starting catcher with the Miracle where he spent his whole season and hit .287/.344/.387 with 4 HRs. He threw out 42% of would be base stealers and was named to the Florida State All Star team. He was promoted to New Britain in 2005, but landed in the DL after 7 games and 20 AB with a back issue (does that sound gravely familiar?) His total production was .209/.273/.306 in those 20 ABs. Next season, 2006, he repeated in the Eastern League (AA) with the Rock Cats, where, still bothered by his back, he hit .211/.276/.311 with 3 home runs. Regardless, he was promoted to Rochester for 2 games in September out of a need because the team had run out of catchers, since Chris Heitz was called up to the Twins and Shawn Wooten quit. For all it matters, he had a single in 7 AB. Next season, however, he was the starting catcher with the Rochester Red Wings (International League, AAA) and put some impressive numbers: .311/.366/.399 (2 HR) in 376 AB. He was an international league All-star in 2007. This earned him a spot on the 40-man roster and a promotion to the Twins, where in his single Major League game, he went 3 for 3 (one double, 2 singles) off José Contreras of the White Sox. Unfortunately, in a Jason Tyner sacrifice bunt attempt in this game, after Morales' last single, while on first base trying to reach second, his cleats were caught in the Dome turf resulting to a broken left ankle. He spent the 2007 off-season recuperating his ankle and reported to Rochester for 2008. In Rochester he hit .315/.348/.426 with 4 HRs and 30% of the would be stealers thrown out, before aggravating his left ankle injury last June 12.
Morales is finally healthy and trying to win a spot with the Twins this season in spring training. Morales is a true switch hitter who utilizes the whole field. here are his spray charts from his 2008 season (click on the spray chart link.) Earlier in his career he has been a better left handed batter, but now he bats equally well from both sides of the plate, even-though he is a better and more powerful RHB. His 2008 splits were .340/.386/.472 against LHP and .303/.331/.400 against RHP. He is not a type of a catcher that will hit the long ball a lot, but one who will make solid contact and will hit several doubles and occasional home runs. Think Brian Harper. One think of note: Morales would be out of options after the 2009 season, so he projects to replace Redmond in the Twins' 25-man roster for 2010.