KC Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas is still poised for a breakthrough seasons despite injury setbacks in 2016.
Last winter, I predicted a big year for Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas in 2016. Moustakas completely transformed his swing between 2014 and 2015. He learned to take pitchers the opposite way when they pounded the outside corner against him.
The result was his best season in major league baseball. His .284/.348/.470 triple slash with 22 home runs and 82 RBIs were career highs. Overall, Moustakas was worth a star-level 4.4 bWAR (Baseball-reference Wins Above Replacement).
However, the death of Moustakas’ mother clearly impacted his play by mid-season. Moose’s triple slash crashed to .188/.271/.306 in July as Moustakas took family emergency leave multiple times. After August 1, Moustakas put up an impressive .286/.358/.563 triple slash with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs in 192 at bats. In many ways, he looked like perennial MVP candidate Josh Donaldson once unburdened by his mother’s declining health.
Moustakas appeared on track for a power breakthrough in the first month of 2016. Before fracturing his left thumb on April 26, Moose was slashing an impressive .267/.337/.613 with 7 home runs and 11 RBIs. Moose tried to play through the injury for a week as his slash line dipped to .227/.227/.273. He then accepted the need to go to the disabled list before returning on May 21.
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Moose slammed into Alex Gordon in only his second game back on May 22, which caused him to tear his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and miss the rest of the 2016 season. His .951 OPS before fracturing his thumb was his third consecutive month with an OPS over .900.
That’s about half a season of MVP level play.
Of course, one half a season doesn’t necessarily mean that Moustakas has established a new performance level. For example, we saw Eric Hosmer slash .305/.367/.490 through June 30 of last season before fading to a nightmarish .228/.291/.378. Even though Hosmer put up a career high 25 home runs and 104 RBIs in 2016, his bWAR value crashed from 3.6 in 2015 to 1.0 in 2016.
On the other hand, don’t be surprised if Mike Moustakas continues where he left off in his last three months of healthy play. Now 28-years-old, Moose is playing for a new contract. He’s also likely to be playing his last year with the Kansas City Royals. He’s had six months of rest since his knee surgery and will have been on the shelf for 7½ months before spring training in 2017.
Let’s hope that Moustakas has spent his time rehabbing with a vengeance. He’s had every incentive to do so.
Whether it’s Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, Jorge Soler, or a resurgent Alex Gordon, the KC Royals offense needs someone to step up with a season like Cain’s 7.2 bWAR campaign in 2015. An offensive centerpiece is one of the keys to returning to the post-season in 2017.