KC Royals Mike Moustakas finally played up to his prospect pedigree in 2015. At age 26, Moose hit .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and 82 RBIs, while playing good defense at third base. Has Moustakas established a new performance level, or will he regress back to mediocrity in 2016?
Some pundits point to Moustakas’ .269 second-half batting average, and the fact that he often faced young September call-ups and tiring pitchers during his late power surge the last two months of the season, to assert that he will not repeat his 2015 season.
Yes, Moose started pulling the ball again late in the 2015 season. But, he hadn’t lost the ability to take outside pitches to the opposite field. Instead, he was turning on inside pitches when opposing hurlers found they could no longer exploit the outside corner with impunity.
I’ve expressed this opinion in two earlier articles in which I asserted that Moustakas is poised for a breakout in 2016, rather than regression (see here and here). What I didn’t do earlier is post the spray charts that helped me come to this conclusion.
I reasoned if the skeptics were right, and Mike Moustakas could not maintain his early success in taking the ball to the opposite field once pitchers adjusted to his new capabilities, his late-season spray chart would look more like 2014 than early 2015.
As you can see in Moustakas’ 2014 season spray chart, Moose was almost incapable of hitting to the opposite field with any kind of authority (Chart courtesy of Brooks Baseball)
As you can see above, all of Moose’s power is to right field (his pull field as a lefty) while being pretty much incapable of getting a hit down the right field line. For the most part, Moustakas did little more than nub a few singles into shallow right in 2014.
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Moustakas announced 2015 would be different when he slammed the first opposite field home run in his career on opening day of 2015. But, if the skeptics were right that Moose became the same old guy by the end of the season and he only succeeded in August and September due to weak competition, you’d expect to see a spray chart that looked like 2014.
Instead, though Moose is again pulling dingers to right, he’s also spraying doubles and singles to left as you can see from his August and September spray chart from 2015:
While Mike Moustakas was once again pull happy, he was still different than 2014. Notice the cluster of blue dots deep in the left field corner. Those are doubles. Moose also slammed one opposite field home run.
Yes, it’s overwhelmed by the flood of red beyond the right field fence. However, when you remember that Moustakas was a guy that had not hit an opposite field home run in his first four years in major-league baseball, it shows he continued to be different hitter despite his success in pulling the ball.
In short, Moustakas showed the ability to defend himself against the outside pitch EVEN WHEN HE WAS AGAIN LOOKING TO PULL.
That’s why, KC Royals fans, I think Mike Moustakas is going to have a big 2016 season. I believe that Mike Moustakas has figured out how to be the guy that won the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year Award in the major leagues.