Nothing will rub out the sting of Mike Moustakas‘s poor performance last year that undoubtedly contributed to the team’s inability to secure a playoff spot. He hit .233/.287/.364 with a 77 OPS+. The damage to 2013 has been done.
Even though Moustakas is currently below replacement level and the embodiment of “worst-case scenario,” the Kansas City Royals plan to play him until he turns into a better hitter or they develop a replacement. No third base prospect is close to the Major League level and Danny Valencia hasn’t proved that he’ll be much more valuable. In other words, it doesn’t do much good to wish Moose gone.
We know the worst-case. We’re knee deep in the middle of it. It just hasn’t done any good to dwell on it. I know. I’ve tried. So, how about we take a break from Moose bashing and consider the best-case scenario.
I’m not hopeful that Moustakas will improve, but plenty of hitters reached the Major Leagues only to struggle for years before figuring things out. They started out horribly and still managed halfway decent careers. That’s not outside the realm of possibility for Moustakas.
Moose currently has a quaint little career OPS+ of 83 and has, thus far, hit .239/.292/.382.
He reminds me of Shane Andrews, another first round pick out of high school from the 1990 draft. He was a pretty good third baseman who couldn’t hit much of anything when he reached the majors. In his first three seasons (1995-1997), he had a 79 OPS+.
Like Moustakas, he showed flashes of power, hitting 19 home runs for the Expos in 1996. From 1998-2000, he posted a respectable .222/.310/.439 slash, averaging 27 home runs per 162 games. Unfortunately for Andrews, this happened during the largest power boom in MLB history and he lost his job right before the Cubs acquired Bill Mueller.
Many players have done as well or better after similar beginnings, and if Moustakas can even manage that he’ll be a valuable asset for the Royals, but it is not not much fun to talk about middling players who didn’t have interesting careers before they were lost in obscurity.
What about the guys who excelled? Who are the players who suffered through hellish multi-year slumps only to become All-Stars? Who represents the very best that Moustakas can become?