In his first full season in the Major Leagues, the 26-year-old switch-hitter put together a monster season, leading the Angels in homers and RBIs.
Taking over the position left vacant by Mark Teixeira's departure via free agency, Morales got off the shuttle to and from Triple-A Salt Lake he'd ridden the last few years and jumped right into the limelight. His 34 homers, 108 RBIs and an on-base plus slugging percentage of .924 all put him among the elite power performers this season. With Vladimir Guerrero missing a significant portion of the season, that was a godsend for the Angels.
It wasn't a straight road to success in the Majors for Morales, a raw talent upon his arrival in the U.S. Morales showed a glimpse of his Major League potential in 2007, batting .294 with a .479 slugging percentage in 119 at-bats, mainly as a designated hitter. After 2008 looked like a step backward, and perhaps it was, there was no doubt Morales had arrived this year.
He really took off in August, earning AL Player of the Month honors with a .734 slugging percentage and 33 RBIs. Second only to Chone Figgins (158) in games played with 152, Morales became the very cornerstone player the Angels expected he'd become when they signed him not quite five years ago.
Mark Teixeira, Yankees
.292 BA, 39 HRs, 122 RBIs
Teixeira has been everything the Yankees hoped he would be when they signed him to an eight-year, $180 million contract last offseason. The switch-hitter spent the second half of the 2008 season with the Angels and was a big part of their offense as he posted solid numbers in his first postseason experience.
Teixeira got off to a bit of a slow start this year as he adjusted to his new surroundings. He hit just .200 with three home runs in April. Once May rolled around, though, he seemed to find his comfort zone and he hit .330 with 13 home runs en route to tying for the AL lead in home runs (39), while leading the circuit in RBIs (122) and total bases (344).
With 103 runs scored and 43 doubles, he joined Albert Pujols as the only players in the Majors to score at least 100 runs, hit at least 40 doubles and hit 35 or more homers.
The Twins held Teixeira to just two hits during the ALDS, but one of them was a game-winner, a home run to left field in the 11th inning of Game 2 to give the Yankees a 4-3 win and a 2-0 series lead. It was remarkably the first walk-off homer of his career.
An excellent defender, Teixeira has good range around the bag and the ability to save his fellow infielders some errors by picking low throws. He ranks second among active first basemen with a .996 fielding percentage, just a fraction behind Doug Mientkiewicz.