2012 Key Players: Moustakas hopes to establish himself in year two

When Mike Moustakas banged a homer in just his second game as a big leaguer, hopes soared. And when he had a .385 average with four walks after four games, it looked like he was on his way to a great rookie season.

Mike Moustakas by Erika Lynn

But things went sour from that point on. By the time September rolled around, you had to wonder if Moustakas could hit big league pitching. He had not homered since his second game and had just 18 RBIs and an anemic .232 average.

But the big third baseman had struggled to adjust at every level, so the Royals stuck with him.

The show Moustakas put on in September is, the Royals hope, a preview of things to come. He batted .352 for the month and popped 4 homers, driving in 12 runs.

We all know what we WANT from Mike Moustakas. We WANT another George Brett. We want 30 homers and 100 RBIs and a .300 average every season.

But rather than talk about how it’s unfair to expect Moose to be George Brett, Royals fans might look around to see what other, mere mortals are doing at third base.

More specifically, Royals fans can ask “What are other teams in the division getting from their third basemen?”

The Royals sights should be set on becoming the best team in the division. They need some of the parts of their whole to become the best in the division. And believe it or not, Moustakas is not that far off from being the best third baseman in the division.

This season, the Tigers plan to play Miguel Cabrera at third. No one can expect Moose to be Cabrera at the plate, but Cabrera’s work at third remains to be seen. This experiment may not turn out as well as the Tigers hope.

The third basemen in the division consist of, basically, four youngsters trying to develop into solid big leaguers, and one of the best hitters of the last decade who isn’t really a natural third baseman.

For Chicago, 24-year-old Brent Morel has a couple of years of big league experience to build on, but hasn’t blossomed yet. In Cleveland, 23-year-old Lonnie Chisenhall hopes to take the position from last year’s starter, Jack Hannahan. And in Minnesota, the Twins look to 26-year-old Danny Valencia to provide the power they lack in their lineup.

It may not tell a lot to analyze last year’s numbers. But based on them, Moustakas wasn’t far from the others in the division, even with his struggles to adjust to the majors. If you average the numbers posted last season by Morel, Hannahan, Valencia and Brandon Inge of Detroit, you get numbers Moustakas could easily match.

The averages of Morel, Hannahan, Valencia and Inge, compared to Moustakas:

Games: Others – 123, Mousatakas – 89
Hits: Others – 93.5, Moustakas – 89
Doubles: Others – 18, Moustakas – 18
Home Runs: Others – 9, Moustakas – 5
RBIs: Others – 44, Moustakas – 30
Walks: Others – 31, Moustakas – 22
Average: Others – .238, Moustakas – .263

If Moustakas plays 123 games this season, there is no reason to think he can’t blow those numbers out of the water.

Interestingly, the guy being drummed out of a job – Hannahan – actually put up the best OBP, SLG, OPS and WAR: .331/.338/.719 and 2.2. The guy who played the most – Valencia – posted the lowest WAR (-1.1) even though he led the group with 15 homers and 72 RBIs.

The Royals find themselves in the same position as the Twins, White Sox and Indians. Each has a third baseman with minimal experience who they hope can make dramatic improvement.

Moustakas has started slowly this spring, but he won’t be moved out of the lineup by anything but injury this year. The Royals, like three other teams in the division, will wait patiently for their third-base prospect to develop.

Cabrera may post big offensive numbers this year, but the Royals hope Moustakas is the division’s best long-term.

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