No, I’m not talking acne which would obviously bring up a whole different debate. I’m simply posing the question based on expectations, past performance and current spring totals, so get your minds off the juice and let’s get on with it…
If there is anyone in the major leagues whose current performance should make him the poster boy for the debate over how much credence we should give to spring numbers, it’s Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Though he did hit 20 home runs in his first full season, he posted a woeful slash line of .242/.296/.412 over 614 plate appearances. Last season, he followed it up with a dismal campaign that not only saw his slash line turn to an even uglier .233/.287/.364, but also came with a power decline and just 12 long balls. But this spring things seem to be a whole lot different. Over 35 Cactus League at-bats, Moustakas is batting an impressive .486 with four home run and 15 RBI. He has a .558 on-base percentage and is slugging at a rate of .943. Crazy, right? But now the question that seems to be on everyone’s minds is whether this is an impending break-out or just another case of a hot spring ready to cool.
Looking back at Moustakas’ history, there were some interesting progressions. Some good, some bad, but collectively interesting. He had a solid rookie debut, posting a .263 average with walk and strikeout rates that looked fine for a man with limited big league experience. However, he did not even come close to showing the power he exhibited int he minors. The following year, the power was there, as evidence by the 20 homers and .171 ISO, but while his walk rate was maintained, his major spike in strikeouts (from 14-percent to 20.2-percent) caused a big decline in both average and OBP. Last year, we saw less power but a return to stronger plate discipline numbers and while his average and OBP continued to decline, some of the blame could find it’s way to a dismal .257 BABIP.
Moustakas’ troubles can be easily found in his batted ball data. Early on in 2012, he opened the year with a fairly decent distribution between his line drive, ground ball and fly ball rates. However, his infield fly ball rate was a little on the high side at 15.4-percent. It all got worse the following month when his line drive rate dropped significantly and both his fly ball and infield fly ball rate spiked. Almost everything he hit was up in the air and and a huge percentage of that never made it past the infield dirt. He made adjustments to help correct the problem, but he never found a groove until August, and by then it was almost too late.
So Moustakas spent the whole offseason changing his approach at the plate. He was going to work on more line drives and rather than continue swinging for the fences and try to specifically repeat the prior season’s home run total, he was going to concentrate on just putting the ball in play. Unfortunately, the season started up almost the same way as the year before and we saw little change from a guy who supposedly changed his approach. He continued to make adjustments, but overcompensated the other way too much and started worm-killing on a regular basis. He went from a 25.4 ground ball rate in April to one of roughly 45-percent in May and June. There was no power to be had and very few of those ground balls had eyes. Again, there was a turnaround in August, but again, it was too little, too late.
While Moustakas was playing in the Venezuelan Winter League in December, news broke that the Royals traded for Danny Valencia. Everyone knows what position Valencia plays and they also know that he wrecks left-handed pitching. Supposedly the move was to send a message, though he does make for a great bat off the bench. Well, message received loud and clear apparently as guess who spent most of the offseason changing his approach at the plate again? Yup, that’s right. Moustakas spent the whole offseason working on his swing and his batting eye and he is hoping to make a much bigger impact with his bat this season. He is hoping to regain the power he lost last year while also doing his best to hit the ball well to the opposite field. So far, so good as he looks like a completely different and much more confident hitter this spring. How well that holds once the season starts, however, is the real question.
Considering Moustakas’ sad-sack 278.28 ADP in the NFBC, he’s obviously not costing you a whole lot to acquire this season. In snake drafts, we’re looking at an 18th or 19th round pick in 15-team leagues, a 24th-round reserve pick in most 12-team leagues and in 10-team mixed leagues, he’s not even being drafted. In auction leagues, I have yet to see him go for more than just a couple of bucks late in the process. With such a small investment required, I don’t see how you don’t take a chance with him. Third base has a very significant drop-off in talent after the top-10, he’s shown 20-home run power in the past, he’s obviously continuing to work hard to fix his problems and he’s tearing the cover off the ball this spring. If he pans out then you’ve hit it big for next to nothing in cost. If he doesn’t, then you cut him and you’ve wasted nothing. There’s practically no risk involved with a big potential payout. For me, that’s a no-brainer.
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