Kansas City Royals third-baseman Mike Moustakas is determined to improve his hitting, and now his mission for improvement will take him south of the equator for some extra offseason work.
Moose will be joining Los Cardenales de Lara for three to five weeks of Venezuelan Winter League ball, starting this November. The team is managed by Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol, who accounted for much of the team’s offensive improvement in the second half of 2013. Moustakas will also be joined by fellow infielder Alcides Escobar, who plays shortstop (beautifully) for the Royals.
If you care about the Royals, you care about this offseason for Mike Moustakas. Moose hit .233 with 12 homers and 42 RBI in 136 games this year. These numbers are all downgrades from the year prior when he still struggled to hit the ball for average, recording a .244 average. The main difference between this year’s production and last year’s is a complete lack of pop. Moustakas hit 20 home runs and recorded 73 RBI with a slugging percentage that was 48 points higher than in 2013.
Continued output like this from a corner infielder will turn Moustakas into a liability. He has the worst batting average among all American League third-basemen, and only Pedro Alvarez has a lower average among all third-basemen in the MLB. Thing is, Alvarez also gave his team 100 RBI and 36 home runs this season, placing him second behind only Miguel Cabrera in those two categories.
Moustakas provides reliable defense at his position, but that isn’t enough to justify his lack of presence in the batting lineup. If he continues to struggle, a demotion to the minor leagues could come very quickly. That’s just another reason to make the most out of his short stint in Venezuela with Pedro Grifol.
By looking at the stats, it becomes obvious that Grifol had a huge impact on Moustakas’ approach at the plate. Moustakas hit .195 and April and .171 in May. Grifol arrived on May 23, and from then on Moose’s statistics began to soar. He turned things around quickly by hitting .274 in June and .267 in July. August was perhaps the best month of Moustakas’ career when it comes to contact hitting. He recorded a .301 average that month in less than 20 weeks since Grifol’s arrival.
When crunch-time came in September, Moose regressed into some bad habits and struggled. Moustakas hit .195 again in the last month of the season, much to the dismay of Royals fans everywhere. However frustrating his season was, Moustakas had long stretches of consistent production in 2013. Royals GM Dayton Moore told media at the Ned Yost re-signing press conference that quite-a-many team in the MLB would be thrilled to have Moustakas, so it seems the faith in him is still strong.
The stats signify that Pedro Grifol’s influence is big, and he can improve a player’s approach in a short frame of time. That makes this trip to Venezuela oh-so-important for Moustakas and the Royals. Viva los Cardenales, amigos.