Prospect of the Day: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals promoted Mike Moustakas to the major leagues Thursday night, and he'll take over as the regular third baseman immediately, with Mike Aviles riding the bus back to Omaha. Eric Hosmer has played well in the majors since his promotion; can Moustakas do the same?
Drafted in the first round (second overall) in 2007 out of high school in Chatsworth, California, Moustakas was considered the best high school power bat available in that draft class by most experts (although some liked Jason Heyward better). He slammed 22 homers in the difficult-for-hitters Midwest League in 2008, but his production tailed off in the even-more-difficult environment of Wilmington in the Carolina League in 2009, where he hit just .250/.297/.421 with 16 homers. He rebounded in 2010, hitting an incredible .347/.413/.687 in 66 games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, then .293/.314/.564 in 52 games for Triple-A Omaha. A repeat engagement at Omaha this spring has resulted in a .287/.347/.498 line. In 107 total Triple-A games, he's hit .290/.331/.531 with 25 homers, 31 doubles, 27 walks, and 69 strikeouts in 448 at-bats.
Power is Moustakas' best asset: his bat speed is tremendous and he can pull just about anything. On the negative side, his strike zone judgment can be spotty and he doesn't draw many walks, making his OBP very dependent on his batting average. A saving grace is a low strikeout rate: he's impatient, but adept at making hard contact even on stuff he probably shouldn't chase. His swing is short and surprisingly compact, and pitchers have found few holes in it even with his aggressive approach.
Moustakas is a big guy and looks thick around the middle, so scouts have sometimes questioned his conditioning. He won't steal bases, but his third base defense is solid. He'll make some errors, but he has a strong throwing arm and more range than you may expect. He might have to switch positions eventually, but his glove isn't a problem right now and won't be for at least a few years.
Moustakas has a history of slow starts and it wouldn't be a surprise if he struggled in his initial exposure to major league pitching, but the long run he will be a source of consistent power and solid defense. He's only 22 years old, and with a normal age curve he should develop into an All-Star caliber slugger.