Mike Moustakas had already been playing in the Venezuelan Winter League for a couple of weeks when the Royals traded for Danny Valencia. It was a move that was thought to be a message to Moustakas – either perform better or be left behind. If you struggle again to start off the season, you could be replaced.
That message appears to be heard loud and clear. Moustakas is supposedly in the best shape of his life (yes, it is just before Spring Training, when everyone is supposedly in the ‘best shape of their lives’) having lost ten pounds in the offseason. He worked with Pedro Grifol in Venezuela on hitting the ball the other way, and trying not to be a dead pull hitter any longer.
Getting in better shape is certainly a great first step, especially on the defensive side. Mike Moustakas went from being an above average defensive player to below average last season. His range factor dropped from 2.95 down to 2.42, while his fielding percentage dropped from .967 to .953. Moustakas went from being worth fourteen runs saved defensively in 2012 to costing the Royals three runs in 2013.
The change in approach at the plate can be beneficial, so long as Moustakas is hitting the ball to all fields with authority. It is one thing to hit the ball the other way – but it is quite another to actually hit the ball well to all fields. If Moustakas is slapping the ball to left, it may lead to a few extra hits, but he is expected to be a power hitter for the Royals. Bloop singles to left are not going to get it done. If he is able to drive the ball to left and hit for power to all fields, then the Royals may have the Moustakas they envisioned back when he was a top prospect.
Losing the weight or changing his approach at the plate may not lead to automatic success, but it does show that maybe things are beginning to click for Mike Moustakas. There have been questions about his maturity and willingness to listen to coaching, so this new found dedication and the changes in approach, both at the plate and in his training, may signal that these are a thing of the past. Having a more mature and willing to listen to coaching Moustakas may help just as much as the weight loss and the change in his swing.
While the change to his swing and the lost weight are certainly notable, they may signal something else – that Mike Moustakas has matured. If that is the case, then 2014 may be the breakout season that we have all been waiting for.