Power Surges of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas a Big Boost for ALCS-Bound Royals

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterOctober 6, 2014

Peter Aiken/USA Today

Riding the power of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas into the American League Championship Series is just how the Kansas City Royals drew it up.

They just probably didn't figure the plan coming to fruition would be a pleasant surprise at the right time.

If you're just joining us, the Royals made it a clean sweep of the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series, winning Game 3 at Kauffman Stadium by the final of 8-3. While James Shields starred on the mound with six innings of two-run ball, Hosmer and Moustakas starred at the plate.

After Alex Gordon's three-run double in the first inning got the Royals on the board, Hosmer's two-run home run in the in the third gave the Royals a commanding 5-1 lead. An inning later, Moustakas answered a solo homer by Albert Pujols with a solo blast that seemed to bury the Angels for good.

Now, Major League Baseball doesn't hand out MVP awards for the division series round. But if it did, Hosmer and Moustakas would surely have to be co-winners of the award after what they did to the Angels.

Per ESPN.com, Hosmer and Moustakas were the Royals' two best hitters by OPS in the series at 1.703 and 1.048, respectively. They also hit all four of the club's long balls, with the other two being Moustakas' clutch go-ahead homer in Game 1 and Hosmer's clutch go-ahead homer in Game 2.

We'll get into what their sudden power surges mean for Kansas City's prospects for advancing to the World Series, but first let's let Bob Nightengale of USA Today lead us into a brief trip on the wayback machine:

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Bob Nightengale @BNightengale

There is Moustakas and Hosmer reminding everyone once again while they were the #Royals prized prospects coming up in the organization.

On that note, let's go way back to 2011.

Had you ventured to read anything about baseball's farm systems before the 2011 season, you would have read something about how the Royals had an elite system and that their young first baseman and young third baseman were big reasons why.

Baseball America, for example, had Kansas City's farm system ranked No. 1 (subscription required) and both Hosmer and Moustakas in the top 10 in its rankings of the top 100 prospects in the game. This was in no small part because of their power potential.

The BA scouting report (subscription required) on Moustakas said he packed "plus-plus power." And while Hosmer's main attraction was his hit tool, Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus noted last year that some scouts actually graded his power at 80 on the 20-80 scale. That's Giancarlo Stanton territory.

Such is what the Royals were looking forward to. If things panned out, they would soon have two homegrown power-hitting corner infielders in the middle of their lineup.

And for a time, it looked like things were going to pan out.

Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

Hosmer arrived in 2011 and hit 19 home runs in 128 games. A year later, Moustakas slugged 20 dingers in 149 games. Though Hosmer only managed 14 homers that year, it was easy to look forward to 2013 as a season in which their power production would be a part of an overall Royals breakout.

As it turned out, not so much.

In 2013, Hosmer and Moustakas didn't even combine for 30 home runs, as the Royals were only respectable enough to win 86 games. And even as the Royals won 89 games this year, Hosmer and Moustakas only contributed 24 home runs as the team finished with an MLB-low 95 home runs.

Hosmer's power certainly wasn't helped by a fractured hand, mind you, but 2014 was also his third straight year with a ground-ball rate over 50 percent, according to FanGraphs. In Moustakas' case, his percentage of pulled fly balls followed a drop in 2013 with another drop to a career-low 22.6 percent. 

As such, it's not as if either was just running into a whole lot of bad luck. It's hard to hit for power when you're hitting the ball on the ground or not pulling the ball in the air. In the last couple seasons, Hosmer and Moustakas have been Exhibits A and B.

But all of a sudden, not anymore.

With two homers against Anaheim and a triple in the AL Wild Card Game against the Oakland A's that barely missed going out, Hosmer has looked like anything but a ground-ball hitter in these playoffs. As his agent, Scott Boras, relayed to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, there's a reason for this:

Kevin Kernan @WheresKernan

Chatted with Scott Boras last night in LA and he was saying Hosmer has figured out how to load his swing properly hence the explosive power

Just from watching Hosmer swing the bat, this would appear to be true. Beyond swinging like a man determined to clobber the ball into a fine paste, he looks like he's making more of a conscious effort to get under the ball.

Moustakas, meanwhile, has made it clear with both of his home runs that pitchers have to be mindful of him golfing pitches at the knees to right field. As BaseballSavant.com can vouch, this wasn't really the case in the regular season.

In so many words: Maybe these power surges aren't flukes. These are two guys who came into the league with very real power, and it looks like both have made adjustments to allow them to tap into it.

And because they have, there's suddenly not much this Royals team lacks.

Whereas power looked like arguably the reason the Royals were doomed for a short stay in October, the power surges of Hosmer and Moustakas mean they now have four solid power supplies in the two of them, Gordon and Salvador Perez. 

Add in the team's excellent speed. And then its excellent defense. And then its excellent bullpen. And then its solid starting pitching. Put that all together, and you realize there's suddenly not much to nit-pick at what skipper Ned Yost is going to have at his disposal in the ALCS against the Baltimore Orioles.

Unless, of course, you don't agree with the word "realize." Maybe you're more on the same wavelength as Hosmer, who had this to say to Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star:

Andy McCullough @McCulloughTimes

Eric Hosmer: “I think the rest of the world is starting to find out we’re for real.”

Well, why not? Maybe the Royals haven't been for real all along, but they sure look the part now. Their biggest strengths look as strong as ever, and their biggest weakness has been resolved by two guys who are swinging the bats the way the Royals always envisioned.

If they can keep it up, there's no reason these Royals can't win eight more games and make believers out of everyone.

Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.  

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