For a primer on the 20-80 scouting scale, check out Kevin Goldstein’s article at Baseball Prospectus. When listening to scouts, baseball front office personnel, writers, or random baseball guys, the 20-80 scouting scale eventually comes up. It’s always a good idea to have knowledge of how players are performing according to this scale so that baseball conversations have a common reference point.
Here are Mike Moustakas’s tool grades:
Scouting reports coming out of high school had him graded with an excellent hit tool, but it hasn’t translated to the majors. Moose has holes all over his swing for every type of pitch. He turned on inside fastballs when he first reached the Majors, but his contact rate has steadily dropped on that pitch over the years.
He still handles fastballs on the outside part of the plate well, but pitchers seem to know this and make him pay for greedily swinging at outside pitches. He gets a steady diet of off-speed stuff on the outside. When Moustakas’s flailing swing looks the worst, it’s because he got a changeup on the outside that he thought was a fastball.
Jason Parks of BaseballProspectus.com implied that Moustakas has a “focus issue” that one is really writing about. The way his numbers have steadily dropped (especially with things he could do when he came up) indicate he’s right. As it is, he doesn’t make enough contact to make an impact with his power.
He still has a good chance of improving. Carlos Beltran, Jermaine Dye and Johnny Damon were not any better after three years, so he has a good chance of turning things around if he digs in and works at it.
Mike Moustakas was widely regarded to have the biggest power in his draft class. The scouting reports consistently labeled him with 75 or 80 raw power. He was supposed to be capable of hitting 35-40 home runs a year. Looking at what he’s done so far, you’d never know.
Even when Moose really gets a hold of one, he doesn’t hit it that far compared to Hosmer or Butler. His longest home run in 2012 was 464 feet. His longest home run in 2013 was 419 feet. His average fly ball distance dropped from 279.21 to 270.57 feet, ranking him 231st. This is terrible news for a guy with 62% fly ball percentage.
If Moose can straighten out his swing, we know he has the raw power. However, he’s had three years of poor contact and a terrible dip in fly ball distance.
Moustakas supposedly didn’t have the raw tools to be a good fielder as an amateur and was an average fielder in the minors. However it happened, he has a legitimate plus-glove in the major leagues.
He was a gold glove finalist in 2012 after making countless dazzling plays to deprive batters of groundball singles in the hole or line drive doubles down the line.
His reaction time is superb. Moose stood in a batting cage with a stumpy glove, 40 feet away from a pitching machine and hit it hurl fastballs at him. Practice has paid off.
Some of his polish wore off in 2013. He still reacted with lightning speed, but after he made contact with the ball, things went downhill.
He let more than a few balls go under his legs and bounce of his glove. He bobbled transfers. He made foolish throws. He still robbed several hits though, and that’s worth something.
Moose has one of the strongest arms at third base. Kevin Goldstein graded his arm as 80 after seeing him throw 98 mph off the mound. His arm got a little wild in 2013. He sailed a few balls over Hosmer’s head at first base and drilled a few of them in the dirt ten feet in front of him. Still, it’s a strong arm and usually accurate.
Moose is a below average runner and also makes some baffling decisions on the basepaths. Hopefully he’ll grow out of the latter. His weight fluctuates rapidly, so his speed sometimes looks average.
Maybe he sometimes forgets that he’s packed on ten or fifteen pounds and tries to steal a base. Whatever the case, he’ll never be fast.
Overall, Mike Moustakas has been a terrible player, but it’s hard to ignore the beast within. He has crazy-fast bat speed. If he can just get back to the approach he had at the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, he could be an all-star.
He’s all the more frustrating because his problems don’t seem to correlate with pitcher adjustments. They’re just him forgetting how to do things learned long ago. His inability to hit inside fastballs materialized out of thin air.
It’s tempting to make some kind of prediction for 2014, but there’s no way for anyone to know how he’ll play. He’ll be as good or as bad as his determination to improve will allow him to be.