Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas and Cleveland’s Lonnie Chisenhall are supposed to be the future of third base in the AL Central. Both are former first-round draft picks, as Moustakas was taken second overall out of Chatsworth (Ca.) High in 2007 and Chisenhall was popped at #29 out of Pitt (N.C.) Community College in 2008. And both lefty hitters ranked among Baseball America’s top 25 prospects entering the 2011 season, with Moose placing ninth and Chisenhall coming in at 25.
Unfortunately, both are also coming off pretty lousy first seasons in the major leagues. Moustakas batted .263, got on base at a .309 clip and slugged .367 in 365 plate appearances for the Royals after getting the call in June. Chisenhall, meanwhile, slashed .255/.284/.415 in 223 PA following a late-June call-up. That’s despite the Royals and Indians spotting for them against lefties: Moustakas had the platoon advantage in 73 percent of his PAs, and Chisenhall 77 percent.
A rough rookie start isn’t cause for panic for either 23-year-old. Plenty of hitters have scuffled at first in the majors before finding their footing. But for Moustakas and Chisenhall to make good on their glowing scouting reports, they’ll have to drastically improve their strike-zone judgment.
Never known for plate patience in the minors, Moustakas made up for low walk rates on the farm by making a good deal of contact and using his 5-foot-11, 230 pound frame to pound out extra-base hits:
That pop didn’t manifest in K.C., though, with Moustakas hitting just five homers and posting a .104 Isolated Power. Swinging at lots of pitches thrown out of the strike zone did him no favors. Moustakas chased 35.1 percent of pitches thrown out of the zone, well above the 30.6 average for MLB hitters in 2011.
Aside from leading to a low walk rate (six percent), Moustakas’ lack of patience likely hampered his power output. Those off-the-plate pitches rarely produce hard contact for hitters, and chasing would-be balls may have contributed to his sky-high pop up rate (21 percent, or nearly twice the MLB average). While Moose’s strike zone was from his eyes to his ankles, he seemed to have an especially hard time laying off high fastballs that often lead to balls hit up the elevator shaft:
Chisenhall also punched out less than most hitters in the minors. While he never showed Moustakas’ level of power, he did a better job than his Royals counterpart when it came to working the count:
He hit for some power (7 HR, .160 ISO), but that decent plate approach cratered in Cleveland. Chisenhall hacked at 42.3 percent of off-the-plate pitches. In related news, he drew just eight walks (3.6 percent of his PA) — and one of those was intentional. Chisenhall also struck out 22 percent of the time, giving him a 0.16 BB/K ratio. That’s epically bad. In fact, it’s one of the 10 worst K/BB ratios of any rookie (minimum 200 PA) over the past decade:
Chisenhall’s problems came on fastballs high and away, and changeups fading away from him low in the zone:
There’s no reason to totally sour on Moustakas or Chisenhall based on what amounts to one full season’s worth of ABs between the two. That said, both have much to learn about in terms of getting into hitter’s counts, which would allow Moustakas to unleash his raw power and Chisenhall to spray line drives all over the field. Neither player figures to be an OBP machine, racking up walks at a Youkilis-esque pace. But there’s a baseline level of strike-zone awareness that both need to reach in order to utilize their strengths in the batter’s box.
Print This Post