Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer Key to Kansas City Royals' Playoff Hopes

By Brian Wille
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout their minor league careers, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer were highly touted prospects. Kansas City Royals’ fans were anxiously awaiting their arrivals to the majors and in 2011, they got their wish when both were promoted to the big-leagues. Ever since the duo broke into the majors, expectations have continued to grow for both players with the hopes that the Moustakas and Hosmer could become two of the cornerstones that would lead the Royals back into perennial contention. While these types of expectations are placed on numerous prospects as they enter the majors, few are able to actually live up to the hype. In Moustakas’ and Hosmer’s cases, both have struggled to live up to expectations after strong starts to their career.

Upon arrival, Hosmer lit the league on fire and was off to a blistering start. He ended his rookie campaign hitting .293 with 153 hits, 19 HR and 78 RBI in 523 at-bats over 128 games. With such a strong showing in his debut season, fans and analysts expected Hosmer to build off those numbers in year two and have a breakout season. Unfortunately, Hosmer failed to live up to expectations and suffered a sophomore slump in his second season at the majors. Hosmer ended up hitting .232 with 124 hits, 14 HR and 60 RBI in 535 at-bats over 152 games.

In every important category, Hosmer’s statistics declined in year two except walks and strikeouts. This setback was not taken lightly in Kansas City and many expected Hosmer to recommit himself in the off-season and come back in 2013 refreshed and poised for a rebound performance. Unfortunately for Royals’ fans, Hosmer is off to yet another slow start in 2013. This slow start has been masked, so far, by the strong start to the season by the Royals, but one must wonder how long the Royals can keep up their success without Hosmer hitting and performing well. Entering play on Thursday, Hosmer was hitting .268 with 26 hits, zero HR and nine RBI in 97 at-bats over 28 games.

The Royals will desperately need production out of Hosmer if they plan on remaining in contention for the remainder of 2013, but Hosmer isn’t the only Royals’ youngster who isn’t living up to expectations this season. Moustakas is also off to a slow start in a year that many fans and analysts also thought would be a breakout season. During his first full season at the majors last year, Moustakas hit a respectable .242 with 136 hits, 124 strikeouts, 20 HR, 73 RBI and a .412 slugging percentage over 149 games.

While those numbers don’t scream breakout season, many thought that Moustakas showed toward the end of last season that he was ready to become a mainstay in the middle of the Royals’ lineup for years to come. Moustakas did nothing to thwart those beliefs as he got off to a torrid start to the season during spring training by hitting .394 with five HR and 16 RBI in 71 at-bats over 26 games. However, Moustakas has failed to translate that hot start over into the regular season and has seen his stats struggle out of the gates. Entering the game on Thursday, Moustakas was hitting .219 with 21 hits, two HR, eight RBI and a .333 slugging percentage in 96 at-bats over 28 games played.

If Moustakas fails to hit, the Royals’ lineup will need to rely on others, like Hosmer, to pick up the slack and keep this team in contention; yet, if both Hosmer and Moustakas struggle, the Royals are going to be in tough shape as the season wears on. So far, the Royals have been the beneficiary of strong pitching which has led them to a strong start with a record of 17-13, good for second place in the division. The pitching is bound to go through a spell where they are not at their best and they will need the lineup to carry them during that stretch.

If the Royals are ever to make a playoff push, they also will need consistent production out of their lineup to supplement their pitching staff. This is where Hosmer and Moustakas play such a key role to the success of the Royals. If both struggle, the team will also struggle in the long run. It’s time for both to turn it around to solidify the Royals’ rebirth among the perennial contenders in baseball. If they don’t, disappointment will be looming around the corner.


Brian Wille is a Minnesota Twins writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @BeeWill15 or “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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