May 20, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Danny Valencia (35) bats in the sixth inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Yankees defeated the Orioles 6-4 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Over the past two seasons, the Royals and their fans have been waiting for Mike Moustakas to become the type of hitter he had been during his time in the minors. One of the top prospects, not only on the Royals but throughout the entire minor leagues, Moustakas was able to blend excellent power with an ability to hit for average. If a ‘sure thing’ existed in terms of prospects, Moustakas appeared to be that.
However, Moustakas has, thus far, failed to be the player that he was expected to be. Not only has he not delivered the consistent power that was expected from him, but he may be at the point where he is simply a platoon player. Throughout his career, Moustakas has put together a .252/.304/.404 hitting line with 31 home runs against right handed pitching. While those numbers are not great, they are much better than how he has performed against left handed pitching. Against lefties, Moustakas is hitting a paltry .203/.244/.304 rate with only six home runs. That difference has carried over to the Venezuelan Winter League, where Moustakas is batting .345/.367/.759 against righties, but only .208/.321/.250 against left handed pitching.
That is part of what makes the Royals acquisition of Danny Valencia interesting. Whereas Mike Moustakas struggles against lefties, Valencia has crushed southpaws to the tune of a .329/.367/.513 rate while hitting twelve home runs. Meanwhile, Valencia has struggled against right handers, batting at only a .229/.269/.360 rate against them. Both players appear to be perfect candidates for a platoon.
Now, the Royals can make that platoon a reality. If Valencia and Moustakas hit at their regular rates, they could combine for a third baseman that hits at a roughly .270/.330/.450 rate with around 20 to 25 home runs. Although those are not the types of numbers that were expected of Moustakas when he first came up, the combination of Moustakas and Valencia could turn out to be a solid third baseman for the Royals.
A platoon also allows the Royals to deepen their bench. Depending on which player is starting, they would now have a power bat from either the left of the right side to bring in late in the game. Having both also allows the Royals to potentially avoid those late inning matchups, since they could then pinch hit with the other third baseman without losing anything in the field.
Employing a platoon at third base may not be ideal. However, the best way to get production from a player is to put them in situations where they can succeed. Given the success that Mike Moustakas has had against right handed pitching, and the success that Danny Valencia has had against lefties, the platoon makes perfect sense for the Royals. Now, by being able to put players in a position where they have had success in the past, they may be able to get the type of production they envisioned for third base over the next few years, even if it is not the way they expected.