We heard all the hype about Mike Moustakas heading into the 2011 season. Many expected him to be the first Royals’ prospect to reach the major leagues, though he ultimately took a back seat to Eric Hosmer (and rightfully so). Once he finally got his opportunity he completely flopped:
338 At Bats
.263 Batting Average (89 Hits)
5 Home Runs
2 Stolen Bases
.309 On Base Percentage
.367 Slugging Percentage
.296 Batting Average on Balls in Play
Looking at the numbers you would think the 23-year-old is an obvious player to pass on. He certainly wouldn’t be the first high-profile prospect that failed to produce at the major league level. However, writing off Moustakas so quickly would be a huge mistake.
It has been the norm for Moustakas to struggle early on when he jumps to a new level, only to get things on track later on. Obviously the overall numbers were not very pretty, but he really started to produce as the season came to a close.
In 88 September at-bats Moustakas hit .352 with 4 HR, 12 RBI, 10 R and 2 SB. There was a little bit of luck involved (.370 BABIP), but that was the only real red flag. Even if he were to regress to a normal luck level, we would still be looking at someone who hit .290 or better. No one would complain about that type of production.
The other peripherals are promising, as he posted a 10.8% HR/FB and 12.0% strikeout rate in September. Obviously things aren’t quite so cut and dry, but on the surface things look good. Over his minor league career he posted a 15.5% strikeout rate and expecting him to improve upon that against better pitching is difficult. Yes, he generally improves as he settles into a level, but this is a little bit extreme.
It’s going to help lower our expectations of his average, but not to the point that he’s going to be unusable (it’s not as though he’s going to strikeout 30% of the time). He may not hit .300, but .270 wouldn’t be a stretch.
Moustakas has shown power potential at every stop he’s made in the minor leagues. Last season was the worst power display of his career (15 total HR), though he was coming off a year where he hit 36 between Double & Triple-A (altogether he has 25 HR in 448 AB at Triple-A, albeit in the Pacific Coast League).
Considering that he also had 31 doubles at Triple-A and 117 over his minor league career, there are plenty of reasons to think that the power will be there. It may take some time, and he could develop into a 30+ home run threat in the future, but anticipating him to hit over 20 this season is very realistic.
The runs and RBI will be there as well, though the Royals may start Moustakas off hitting lower in the batting order. As it is, Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer are going to fill in the third, fourth and fifth spots of the lineup (most likely), meaning no matter where Moustakas hits he isn’t going to score a ton of runs.
Then again, if he can get close to 70 he’s not going to destroy you (there were only 10 third basemen who scored more than that in 2011). He also could drive in close to 80 RBI, making him that much more appealing (there were seven 3B who had 70 R and 80 RBI last season), assuming he settles into the sixth spot in the lineup.
While it all depends on exactly where he hits, here are my preliminary projections for him:
.275 (165-600), 22 HR, 80 RBI, 75 R, 3 SB, .300 BABIP, .329 OBP, .445 SLG
Yes, we would like to see him get on base a little bit more, but we can’t have everything. If he can produce these types of numbers, he would be well worth owning in all formats.
Is he going to be a must-start option? Definitely not at the outset, but he could end the season as a borderline top-12 option. Considering the lack of “star” depth at the position, you could do a lot worse as a reserve option. He has the upside to exceed these numbers, so target him late in your draft with confidence.
What are your thoughts of Moustakas? What type of numbers are you expecting from him in 2012? Do you think he could be worth starting?
Make sure to check out my other 2012 projections: