As Spring Training rolls along, there are the same inevitable stories that will come out of camp under the guise of news. We will all see the stories of how players are in the best shape of their careers, and how this shows a commitment to improvement. Yet, if a player shows up in a more spherical shape, that’s fine because they can just work their way back into playing shape, because that is what Spring Training is for.
Another inevitable storyline is how former top prospects will finally be able to live up to their billing. That has certainly been the narrative for Mike Moustakas over the past two Spring Trainings, as he crushed the baseball in Cactus League play. That success, however, has yet to actually translate over to the regular season.
Once again, even before Cactus League games have begun, Moustakas is being considered as a breakout candidate. Michael Clair from MLB.com put together a list of five former top prospects that could finally break through this season, and Moustakas is on that list. Considering his post season success, where Moustakas hit five home runs in the Royals march through October, it is easy to see why there is hope that this will finally be the year everything comes together.
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Of course, this is the same hope that was circulating around Mike Moustakas prior to the 2013 and 2014 seasons as well. While Moustakas may have made strides at the plate, and may have been victimized by a horrific .220 batting average on balls in play, one has to wonder when that hope will fade. Moustakas is now about to enter his fourth full major league season, and has yet to approach the promise of 2012.
In fact, since that 2012 season, Moustakas has gotten progressively worse. His OPS+ slipped from a mediocre 91 in 2012 to an embarrassing 74 last season. For context, that 74 OPS+ was only seven points ahead of Raul Ibanez. That is not exactly a statistic that inspires confidence.
Of course, the light bulb could go on for Mike Moustakas. He indicated earlier that he maybe willing to bunt more to beat the shift, which would certainly improve his batting line and get him on base. If his batting average on balls in play reaches even respectable levels, then Moustakas may wind up with a batting line that approaches competence.
This is now the third year in a row where Moustakas is expected to take a step forward. At some point, he will actually need to do so, or he just will not be worth the expenditure to keep him in Kansas City. With Hunter Dozier and Cheslor Cuthbert conceivably on the horizon, Moustakas needs to finally show more than flashes that he could be the player the Royals envisioned. He needs to put together a full season where he is more than someone who hits the occasional home run, but does little else.
Maybe this is the year that Mike Moustakas breaks through and finally has that breakout season. I just would not hold my breath waiting for it to happen.