No offense Billy Butler, but third baseman Mike Moustakas has been the best player for the Kansas City Royals this season, hands down.
One would think that the most important player on a team that boasts an 8-16 record doesn’t merit much praise. But the second-year third baseman has outperformed his sophomore teammate Eric Hosmer, particularly when measured against the expectations for each of them entering the 2012 season.
Perennially a slow-starter offensively, Moustakas currently boasts a .318/.370/.553 split with four home runs, 15 runs batted in, 12 runs scored and eight doubles.
Not only is Moustakas handling the bat well, but his defense has been much improved. He can be credited with preserving last night’s 4-3 victory over the visiting New York Yankees with a stellar bare-handed scoop and throw to gun down Alex Rodriguez for the final out.
In terms of overall performance, Moustakas has been the main component for the Royals’ turnaround since ending their 12-game losing streak by going 5-2 over the past seven games. Why he has not been moved up in the lineup ahead of a struggling Jeff Francoeur is a mystery.
The Royals can largely point the finger at injuries (starting catcher Sal Perez, closer Joakim Soria and center fielder Lorenzo Cain), poor decision making by manager Ned Yost and bad luck for their slow start this season. However, Alex Gordon, Hosmer and Francoeur have yet to regain their form from successful 2011 seasons as well. If they can right the ship, the American League Central crown is still in reach, as no team has run away from the crowd yet.
Nevertheless, one player that the Royals and their fans can’t attribute the team’s early letdown to is Moustakas, who actually started to heat up last season with September splits of .352/.380/.580 with 11 extra-base hits and 11 runs batted in.
If Moustakas can keep up his current pace, the All-Star Game will be a mere footnote to his 2012 season. But if the host city can’t squeeze out two representatives for the Mid-Summer Classic, he will gladly man the hot-corner for the American League and shine for Kansas City.