Former Kansas City Royals top prospect Mike Moustakas has started the 2014 season 0-15. The only contribution he’s made at the plate this season is two measly walks.
Ouch! I’d like to say that the only way it could have been worse involves zombie apocalypse scenarios, except an undead Moustakas would have more hits.
After struggling his first 2 1/2 seasons in MLB, this year was supposed to be different. Mike Moustakas came to spring training with a new swing after spending the winter working with Royals hitting coach Pete Grifol in the Venezuelan League.
Moustakas was determined to use the opposite field and hit the ball up-the-middle rather than continuing as the dead-pull hitter he has been his entire major-league career. In Arizona, Mike Moustakas scorched the ball to the tune of .429/.522/.768 for a team-leading OPS of 1.290 that included 4 home runs and 11 extra-base hits.
He looked more than ready.
And now he’s started 0-15. Of course, panicking after four games would be ridiculous. Yet, Mike Moustakas has been mired in a year-and-half funk. And, after following another torrid spring in 2013 with an atrocious .215/.271/.327 first half last season, I think everyone—including Moustakas—has to be just a little bit worried that history might be repeating itself.
The fear that we all don’t want to acknowledge is that the 25-year-old Moustakas might never become the middle-of-the-order hitting star everyone expected after the Royals drafted him no. 2 overall in 2007.
Such expectations seemed completely validated after he hit .322/.369/.630 across two levels and led all minor league players with 36 total home runs in 2010. Baseball America rated him the #9 prospect in MLB.
All of that now seems as contemporary as 10-year-old pictures of Lindsay Lohan.
As dire as that comparison may be, all is not yet lost. Moustakas can recover. One need only to look at his similarity scores on Baseball-Reference.com to see comparable players through age 24 that have gone on to successful careers. Included on that list are rather comforting names like: Howard Johnson, Don Money, and our very own Alex Gordon.
The successful player who looked most like Moustakas through age 24 is fellow third-baseman Howard Johnson. Between his age 22-24 seasons, Johnson hit .242/.310/.390 for an OPS of .700 with 26 HRs, compared to Moustakas’ career line of .244/.296/.385 for an OPS of .691 with 37 HRs. HoJo finally broke out with 36 HRs and a .265/.364/.504 triple slash in 1987 (an All-Star season).
Take comfort Royals fans, Moustakas can still have a good career—and even a good 2014 season—no matter how bleak it looks right now.