This has been a dismal start to what should have been (and might still be at some point*) an uplifting Royals season. Clutch hits have been rare. Consistent pitching has been absent. Things don’t look good. Rarely will they when a team loses 11 in a row.
Still, the first 10% of the season hasn’t been a complete and utter waste. Some players are struggling, but not all.
The most surprising player early on to me is Mike Moustakas.
The trend for Moose is that he starts out slowly. Throw that idea out so far. Moose is sitting at .286/.333/.518 after 65 at bats. That’s a small sample size, true, but to get started out that way is encouraging in light of the team’s struggles early on as well as his first months in the big leagues.
Moose leads the Royals in extra base hits with seven doubles and two home runs. He’s behind Billy Butler and Alcides Escobar in base hits and is behind just Butler and Eric Hosmer in RBI. He’s played against lefties and righties both, when the preseason narrative suggested that Yuniesky Betancourt might spell him versus lefties. He’s produced despite having the likes of Humberto Quintero and Mitch Maier behind him. Four of his doubles have come with runners in scoring position, so if you believe in clutch, as something measurable, he’s showing that too. He hasn’t hit infield popups as frequently as he did in 2011 and though his BABIP is .341 so far, his line drive percentage is lower than average so he may be able to stay in the neighborhood over a larger sample.
It’s not as if he’s just getting bloopers to fall, either. He’s hitting the ball to all fields and hitting it hard. On Monday night, he hit a double to the wall. On Sunday, he went the other way and ripped a double down the left field line. He went months between his first and second home run in 2011. He’s got two within the first two weeks of the year already.
Even better, he’s played some great defense. The scouting reports always said that Moustakas (drafted as a shortstop) wouldn’t be able to stay at third base. The thought was that he wouldn’t be that skilled at third, as well as he wouldn’t maintain the body type to remain agile enough to make the plays.
So far, you can throw that out too.
He’s made a few plays worthy of web gem recognition, showing quick reactions and good hands. His one error was a throwing error on Sunday. He was a member of the “best shape of his life” club in spring training after working hard in the offseason (and a case of the flu). A trimmer Moustakas has still had good hitting ability but has added quickness.
He still has his warts. Only Alex Gordon has struck out more frequently, and Moustakas isn’t going to be much of a walks batter until he shows more consistent home run power and gets pitched around. He was never that selective in the minors. But progress is there early on.
In a season marked by a lot of early struggles, Mike Moustakas has been a lone bright spot.