Former Royals Melky Cabrera watches as Mike Moustakas’ (not pictured) first career opposite field home run goes over the left field fence on Opening Day. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
"“What was most impressive about that was that it was an opposite field home run,” Bruce Chen said, after Moustakas’ Opening Day home run. “If he keeps hitting the ball to the opposite field, he’s going to make this team a lot better.”"
It seemed that Opening Day 2015 came quick enough that Kansas City Royals fans were still catching their breath from the whirlwind of the 2014 season.
After the 2014 American League Champions flag was raised out above the Royals Hall of Fame in left field, Mike Moustakas trotted out to third base for his fourth consecutive opening day start for Kansas City.
Moustakas represented all that was on the Royals shoulders in 2015.
Both Moustakas and the Royals had experienced the depths of failure at the Major League level, only to find themselves on the top of the world for a few short weeks in October.
They also rode into April with the lofty expectations of being defending AL Champs, and an unwavering amount of doubters among the baseball world.
Each were looking to establish October of 2014, not as a fluke, but as what was to come.
Both did so rather swiftly.
The Royals cruised to a 10-1 victory over Jeff Samardzija and heavily-hyped White Sox, while Mike Moustakas went 2-3 with a home run in his first career start out of the two-hole.
In what was to become a vital part of his breakout season, Moustakas’ home run was to left field, the first opposite field homer of his career.
Moustakas left April hitting .356, while OPSing at a .942 clip, the second highest total for a month in his career.
Two and a half months later, Moustakas was facing Aroldis Chapman in the All-Star Game.
Fast forward another two months, and Moustakas was setting a Royals record with nine-RBI in one game, behind a grand slam and a three-run home run.
This was also the day that Moustakas opened up to Rosenthal about his mother’s passing.
Behind a vastly improved ability to hit the ball the other way, Moustakas heads into the playoffs as one of the Royals best players.
Moustakas 22 home runs are in a tie for the team lead, while his 3.5 fWAR is second to only Lorenzo Cain.
Moustakas comes in just behind Lorenzo Cain, Kendrys Morales, and Eric Hosmer in nearly every slash category, including OPS and OPS+, despite having a .289 BABIP that is 31 points lower than the next lowest of the three.
He has set career highs in every slash category, as well as hits, home runs, runs, RBI, OPS+, ISO, and wOBA.
Mike Moustakas’ career has done a complete 180.
Next: What lies ahead for Moustakas?