SeanThornton05 over at Royals Review wrote an article recently arguing that the Royals ought to be targeting Mike Moustakas in free agency, not Eric Hosmer. While I agree that the Royals should be staying away from Eric Hosmer, I think they should be even more wary of Mike Moustakas. In a bit of a rebuttal, here’s why.
Mike Moustakas made a legend of himself during his time in Kansas City. He was the first round pick that had broken the California high school HR record. He debuted with Eric Hosmer in 2011 after being a part of arguably the greatest farm system ever. In 2017 he broke the Royals single-season HR record and was a part of one of the greatest send offs that I’ve ever seen in professional sports. “Moose” will certainly live in KC folklore for all of eternity.
Now that the Royals “greatest farm system ever” is all grown up and moved on, Kansas City appears to be headed toward an immediate rebuild. During most rebuilds teams will look to get younger and cheaper in a hurry. Signing Mike Moustakas (or Eric Hosmer) accomplishes neither of those things. The Royals have two adequate third basemen that are both younger and significantly cheaper than Mike Moustakas will be in 2018.
SeanThornton5’s article at Royals Review suggests that the Royals highest rated third base prospect is Emmanuel Rivera, who played the 2017 season with Low-A Lexington. This is doing a bit of a disservice to the Royals #4 prospect Hunter Dozier, who, even if your opinion is that Dozier won’t play third in the big leagues, he’s still listed as a 3rd baseman. He’s capable of playing the position and, in my opinion, needs to be the Royals 3rd baseman sooner rather than later. He’s still 26 years old and is under team control through 2023, giving him a bit of a future in Kansas City.
Let’s say though that Hunter Dozier makes the move to 1B or even the outfield, the Royals still have Cheslor Cuthbert and Ramon Torres who can man 3B. Yes, both of those players are significantly worse than Mike Moustakas, but the point of a rebuild is to get younger and cheaper, and both Cuthbert and Torres are younger and cheaper than Moose.
Okay, so you still think that none of those three options are worth playing at 3B next year regardless of how bad the Royals will be overall? Interesting, but fine. Let’s talk about Moose then.
Mike Moustakas was one of the biggest benefactors of the juiced ball in 2017. Here’s what our site founder Patrick Brennan was able to find via xStats. xStats had Moose pegged for 27.2 HR in 2017, compared to the 38 HRs Moose actually hit. His HR/FB ratio was 17.8%, xStats had his xHR/FB ratio at 12.8%. If you watch the film on Moustakas’ HRs, he rarely hits what you would consider a “bomb.” That is, most of Moustakas HRs appear to be high fly balls that clear the fence but don’t ever make you go “WHOA!” The point of this is that if the juiced balls ever disappear, or if Moose begins to lose some strength with age, you could see his HR numbers come crashing back to the median.
“Moose isn’t just a HR hitter! He does other things at the plate well too!” Really? Like what? His OBP in 2017 was .314, Eric Hosmer’s BATTING AVERAGE was .318. There were 112 qualified hitters with a better OBP than Mike Moustakas in 2017. His BB% was the lowest of his MLB career, coming in at 5.7%. Moose’s “swing for the fences” approach created more HRs, but also created more outs in the process.
In 2017 Moose’s Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) was 4.6 according to FanGraphs. That ranked as 81st best in the MLB last year. Here’s a list of some players that were listed ahead of Moose in Offensive Runs Above Average, and the number of HRs that player hit in 2017:
- Joe Mauer, 7
- Cesar Hernandez, 9
- Jean Segura, 11
- Whit Merrifield, 19
- J.T. Realmuto, 17
- Josh Harrison, 16
- Xander Bogaerts, 10
- Andrelton Simmons, 14
Mike Moustakas is an outlier when it comes to HR numbers and Offensive Runs Above Average. In fact, no player in baseball last year hit more HR than Mike Moustakas and had a worse Offensive Runs Above Average rating. In fact, the next closest player to Moose in terms of HR/Off would be Jay Bruce. Jay Bruce hit 36 HR in 2017 and his Offensive Runs Above Average rating was 12.1. 7.5 points better than Mike Moustakas.
I love Mike Moustakas just as much as the next Royals fan. But the fact of the matter is that he’s not going to get any younger or cheaper. His injury concerns are real and, regardless of whether or not it’s fair to judge Moose on his ACL tear, it happened. Once you tear one ACL you’re more likely to tear another, and Moose’s size doesn’t make me feel great about the future of his knees. Add that in with his declining walk rate and rising strike out rate, Mike Moustakas would be far too great a risk for the Kansas City Royals during a rebuild.