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Mike Moustakas Poised for a Breakout Year For The Kansas City Royals

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Kansas City Royals legend George Brett (5)Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Similarly, Moustakas recognized he was in a similar situation entering this season. Thus, he skipped the off-season preferring instead to hook up with Royals hitting instructor Pedro Grifol who managed the Cardinales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League.

He posted a solid line, albeit in a small sample size, with 3 HR/17 RBI/.288/.875 OPS in 17 games. Good numbers but not awe-inspiring. However, his line is not the issue.

The big take-away from Moustakas’ efforts in Venezuela should be why he was there and what he was working on. In a recent article from Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star,  J.J. Picollo, Royals assistant general manager, had the following to say about the young third baseman,

"“I think the biggest positive that came out of it was on a nightly basis, he was facing left-handed pitching…every time the lineup turns over in the back third of a winter ballgame, it’s usually matchups, so he was getting the chance to face a lot of left-handers. Certainly, if there were guys on base, they were bringing in left-handers to face him, and I think that certainly helped him.”"

According to Moustakas, while in Venezuela, he worked with Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol, the team’s manager every day. He would take around 300 swings each day with a focus on eliminating the dead-pull in his swing. (Again, from Kerkhoff and the Kansas City Star)

"“That’s where I got into trouble last year, trying to pull everything,” Moustakas said. “Pedro told me that’s not going to work. We’re going to work the middle of the field, do damage up the middle.”"

Moustakas spent a lot of time reviewing last season and noticed,

"“When I tried to pull it, my hips flew open, my shoulders flew, my head flew, and I had no chance of making contact.” Interestingly, his new approach at the plate sounds eerily familiar to one advocated by a certain Royals hitting coach from the early to mid 1970s…an emphasis on driving the ball up the middle and on taking what the pitcher gives you. It’s a formula that has worked for at least one other Royals third baseman in the past."

While it’s certainly not possible to predict what kind of hitter Moustakas will turn out to be, his minor league history would seem to favor a possible break-out season. He’s had just a bit over two full years with the team now and has over 1300 career at bats in the major leagues.

His minor league track record does support the idea that approximately two seasons is what he needs to make the necessary adjustments and become a serious offensive threat.

Dayton Moore is fond of pointing out that it generally takes around 1500 at bats before you really have a sense of what kind of hitter you’ve got. Well, we’re there. If Moore’s theorem rings true, we should know one way or the other whether that number two overall pick was justified.

Only time will tell whether Moustakas and Grifol will succeed in helping Moose post the kind of numbers most expected from him when he was drafted.

This much if for sure, Moustakas appears committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that he does. If it comes down to effort, we should see a whole new Mike Moustakas at the plate this season and that can only be a good thing for everyone involved.