Moustakas needs to drive the ball in order to fulfill his potential. Without power, he has very little value. Photo. Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-US PRESSWIRE

He Moust Hit for Power. See What I Did There?

MOOOOOUS!!!! MOOOOOOUS!!!! MOOOOOOUS!!!!

That is a sound all Royals fans would love to hear and participate in this season. Those chants mean Mike Moustakas is probably doing something good, and when Moustakas does something good, it can be game changing. He has that potential.

It’s the scariest word in sports, but right now, it’s really the only word that seems apt to tag Moustakas with—potential. Yes, he came up last year and did some good things in the last six weeks of the season. After his very Moustakas-like adjustment period, he started showing the promise and pop that Royals fans began believing in when he put up big numbers in Northwest Arkansas. He played a solid third base, which stood out as a very pleasant surprise to fans who heard nothing but average things about his ability at the hot corner.

But, overall, most wouldn’t describe Moustakas’ debut as earth shattering. He didn’t drop bombs like we hoped he might. He wasn’t pounding down Kauffman’s outfield fence with doubles off the wall. He hit a lot of singles on his way to a pretty pedestrian .263/.309/.367.

So, what he has now is potential. When I looked at that line I saw two issues, one of which didn’t surprise me at all. Everyone who followed Moustakas through the minors knew he wasn’t going to walk much. That’s not his game. It’s not something he feels comfortable doing. He isn’t necessarily a hacker; he’s a hitter. But if he’s going to swing as often as he does, he has to drive the ball out of the ballpark. He has to pile up extra base hits, and he didn’t do that. In his 365 plate appearances with the big club, Moustakas hit only five home runs, which means he hit a home run in 1.37% of his at bats or once every 73 plate appearances. That just won’t do, and seems very UN-Mous-like.

During his minor league career, Moustakas pounded the ball. From low A to AAA, he had slugging percentages of .468, .421, .687, .568, and .498 (the last two were in AAA during separate years). That’s not bad, and even the large spike in his numbers at Northwest Arkansas, where it is notoriously easy to hit for power, stuck around a little during his stint in Omaha. At those stops his home run rate was much better than during his time with the Royals in 2011. While with the Naturals, his home run rate was once every 14 plate appearances. While with the Storm Chasers, it was once every 19 plate appearances.

Obviously, there’s a disparity between how he performed as a power hitter during his call up in 2011 and how he has performed in the past. The projections provided by Bill James and RotoChamp, seemingly find middle ground between the two, predicting .278/.323/.447 and .267/.317/.441 lines respectively. James predicts 18 home runs for Moustakas in 2012 while RotoChamp predicts 20. These numbers seem to make sense to the statistical eye.

Last season was frustrating for Moustakas, but he's found ways to bounce back in the past. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

However, they may be missing the Moustakas-factor—coefficient, theorem … I don’t know math, which sounds cooler?  And the basis of that factor, as you all probably know, is adjustment and improvement. At every level since at least AA, including the majors, Moustakas has struggled for a period before exploding with big numbers. Many believe we saw the beginnings of that in the last six weeks of last season. We really haven’t been able to see what he can do when he adjusts to a level because Moustakas hasn’t really been able to stick in a level long enough to show what he can do when he starts figuring that level out. He did stick around for most of AA, and had a monster season. He started out struggling with AAA as well, but just after it looked like he had AAA pitching figured out, he was promoted to the majors. Now, he has nowhere to go. He’s going to be in the majors and will only have to figure out major league pitching. If he can adjust and improve to the point where he hits at the home run rate he had in AAA, not unreasonable considering some of that time was spent in a miserable slump, then he should hit 30 homeruns if he gets 600 plate appearances (check the math, I did it myself).

Personally, I see Moustakas’ power as a great asset to the Royals. They have plenty of well-rounded hitters but few real power bats. Hosmer can be that power bat, but most scouts believed Moustakas was the real power between the two. It might still take time; Moustakas is still pretty young, but I can see him hitting in the 3

0-35 home run range and maybe even pushing my hero Steve “Bye Bye” Balboni off the top of the Royals record book some day.

I hesitate to give a prediction, but I’ll do it. And since I’m a fan, I can be a little bias. I think Moustakas’ line will look more like .285/.330/.490 with 28 home runs and plenty of doubles. If Moustakas has made adjustments, he will have a very solid to spectacular year. That will help the Royals offense take another step forward toward the top tier of offenses in the AL.

Also, it will give the fans reasons to MOOOOOOUS!!!!!

How does he make these adjustments? That’s another article for another time, and much of that will be understanding how pitchers are trying to pitch him and working with Kevin Seitzer on mechanics. But here’s a bit of super-secret, specially analystic, mega sabrmetric advise:

STOP POPPING THE DAMN BALL UP!

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Tags: Hitting Home Runs Moustakas Power Royals Third Base

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