Three months ago, Mike Moustakas was called “the top prospect in the top minor league system in baseball.” That’s the sort of talk that gets absolutely everyone excited about the possibilities for the Kansas City Royals third baseman — national and local fans, front office personnel and certainly the manager, coaches and teammates. The only issue here is that Moustakas’ potential has a context, and the context isn’t ready.
Let me say this from the outset, however: this isn’t a horrific or frightening move bound to stymie Moustakas long-term process and nullify any chance the Royals to win in future seasons. That would be ridiculous. Moustakas will hit his 30 home runs from the power corner, become entrenched in the hearts of Royals’ fans and make good on most of the praise and potential lavished on him these last couple of minor league seasons.
But everything has its timing, or as Thom Yorke sings, “Everything in its right place.” Acquiring or drafting the right players is one thing; utilizing them is another thing entirely. The ascension of Mike Moustakas at age 22 is a bit of a head-scratcher in that it pulls up the best power prospect at the wrong time — on both Moustakas’ personal timeline and the major league club’s as well.
Moustakas has yet to play a full-season in AAA Omaha, with only 107 games played total. In roughly the same amount of at-bats last year, his strikeout rate has almost doubled and his slugging percentage has dropped 66 points (.564 to .498). In other words, it’s not as if AAA wasn’t challenging him anymore like you could have said of Eric Hosmer just one month ago.
On the major league level, Wilson Betemit is unseated in the process. If he’s going to be trade bait, why remove a chip from playing in the field before you move him — thus lowering his value in the process? Even if he’s moved to second base, it’s not his steady position and you mess with your infield defense. If nothing else, give Moustakas one more full month in the minors to work on a couple areas of weakness, and give the front office another month to work the phones to find a second baseman for Betemit, Melky Cabrera or other trade chips.
It’s clear that Moustakas was getting hot in the minors, however, so perhaps it’s worth bringing him up ASAP just to secure the line-up a bit more — one that has had issues scoring runs. I just think it wise to be cautious with the young products in house given how many top prospects have flamed out because of improper handling along the way.