The road to the bigs is never easy even for those on the fast track, and Mike Moustakas knows that well.
No, Moustakas’s transition from former heralded top prospect to major leaguer for the Kansas City Royals hasn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated, not after he followed a promising .817 OPS in the first half of 2012 with a brutal .586 after the All-Star break.
Still, he’d made up for it with his exceptional defense (14 DRS, 14.3 UZR/150), and was a 3.2 fWAR player in his first full season at just age 23, even if the bat hadn’t fully come along yet. The promise of being a top-10 prospect (No. 9 going into 2011, according to Baseball America) was certainly still there, and it was only going to be a matter of time before Moustakas took the next step.
The 24-year old is off to a fast start to doing so this spring. While much of the attention has been on Alex Gordon‘s eight-homer, 1.316 OPS Cactus League campaign, Moustakas isn’t exactly far behind, either.
Through 71 at-bats over 26 Spring Training games, the third baseman has posted a .394/.429/.718 triple-slash, with five homers to go with that total. His 6.5 percent walk rate and 20.8 percent strikeout rate is in line with the 2012 season totals, which is to say that he still strikes out a little more than desired; but with a team-leading 13 extra-base hits that includes eight doubles, there’s little doubt that he’s smashing the cover off the ball.
One thing that’s perhaps a little more telling is his GO/AO ratio, which is currently sitting at 0.93 this spring, compared to 0.38 this time last year. That number for the 2012 season sat at 0.63, which may suggest that work has been done this spring to make Moustakas less of a fly ball hitter and more of a balanced one.
Yes, you could easily say that the reason for the spring spike in power is simply because well … it’s still March.
But, the underlying numbers say that there’s growth there, and that might be the key to him building on his strong first half in 2012, and more importantly — maintaining it for the full season.