Sep 5, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) connects for the game winning home run in the thirteenth inning of the game against the Seattle Mariners at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 7-6. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Mike Moustakas Showing Signs of Improvement in the Venezuelan Winter League


Aug 8, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas (8) connects for a two run single in the first inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

 

Mike Moustakas made an early New Year’s Resolution for 2014 when he resolved to head to the Venezuelan Winter League this December for three to five weeks in order to get his swing back together. From December 1st through December 22nd, Moustakas played for the Cardenales de Lara, managed by Royals hitting coach Pedro Grifol. There, under his tutelage, it was hoped that Moustakas would be able to tap into his power and show signs of being the hitter that the Royals hoped he would be.

Overall, in his 17 games with Lara, Moustakas hit at a .288/.360/.515 rate with three home runs and six doubles. Although he did strike out 16 times in 66 at bats, there were still positive signs. Over his last nine games, Moustakas struck out only seven times in his final 33 at bats, and he ended his time with a five game hitting streak, slugging four doubles in that span.

Another encouraging sign was how Mike Moustakas performed against left handed pitching. After struggling against lefties throughout his career, Moustakas held his own against southpaws in the VWL, producing a .259/.394/.296 batting line. While the power was disappointing, as Moustakas only had one extra base hit, a double, against left handed pitching, his ability to make contact and actually get on base against left handers may be a sign that the adjustments are starting to work.

The power increase was also significant. Moustakas had an extra base hit in 13.6% of his at bats for Lara, up from his career mark of 7.8% for the Royals. Extrapolated out over a full season for Moustakas, that would give him approximately 76 extra base hits based on the average number of at bats that he has had over the past two seasons. While it is unlikely that Moustakas gets that much playing time with the acquisition of Danny Valencia, if he can produce extra base hits at that rate, then the Royals may finally get the power hitter that they envisioned when Moustakas was drafted with the second overall pick.

Perhaps the acquisition of Valencia proved to be the spark that Mike Moustakas needed to put in the effort and get himself back on track. Perhaps he just needed the refresher in Lara to work on getting his swing back in shape. Perhaps it was a combination of both. At any rate, the time spent in the VWL appears to have been a positive experience for Moustakas with the bat.

While it is difficult to know whether or not those adjustments made in the past three weeks will remain with Moustakas through Spring Training and throughout the 2014 season, the early returns are favorable. Now, he just needs to continue those improvements going forward.

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  • Chad Woelk

    Striking out 16 times in 66 ab is horrible esp in the VWL. Glad the Royals signed Valencia!!

    • Dave Hill

      The strikeouts are definitely discouraging, but Moustakas appears to have made strides almost everywhere else. Cutting back on the strikeouts would be the next step.

  • Dave Lowe

    David, the stats are meaningless, as they were against non-major league pitching. Even if Moose would have raked, they wouldn’t have meant much. I think the Royals are conceding that Moose just isn’t going to be what they hoped…yet they are willing to be pleasantly surprised if something sparks inside him and he turns into George Brett.

    Problem is, I see no similarities in the batting stances of Moose and Brett.

    • moretrouble

      I don’t believe the Royals have given up on Moustakas at all. He’s their regular third baseman and I expect him to be in their every day line-up. The team needed a RH hitter off the bench anyway and I don’t think Valencia was acquired to replace Moose. Having said that, KC is playing for something this year and if Moose struggles, I would not be surprised to see Valencia in the line-up from time to time, although the team is giving up some defense by playing him.

      • Dave Lowe

        Disagree. The Royals drafted Hunter Dozier last year and moved him to 3B for a reason. For some reason, Moose just looks lost at the plate. It’s been that way for the last two seasons with me. I’m sure the Royals see it as well.

        The VZ league is a last ditch effort to see if Grifol can help turn him around. 2014 is Moose’s last chance.

    • Dave Hill

      The statistics themselves may be meaningless, but they can still point to certain things. If Moustakas went to the VWL and didn’t hit for any power and continued to struggle, then that says that he may not be able to be fixed. However, the fact that he did show improvements could be a positive sign. if nothing else, it may be enough to get him on the right foot heading into Spring Training. If he can carry that momentum over, then he may get close to what the Royals envisioned.

      • Dave Lowe

        I understand what you are getting at, Dave. But look at what the 2013 spring training outburst meant for his 2013 season…nothing. I’m just saying that the larger body of work is much more meaningful (his 1,500 ABs in the majors so far) than any success in a month or less against lower quality pitching.