In the 2007 MLB Amateur June Draft, the Royals selected Michael Moustakas second overall. Royals GM Dayton Moore chose Moustakas over recent elite-status prospects –and current big league ballplayers– Matt Wieters, Jason Heyward, Madison Bumgarner and Rick Porcello. Taken out of Chatsworth high school, the alma mater of Marlins prospects Matt Domginues and Bryan Petersen, the Royals signed Moustakas to a $4 million dollar signing bonus and sent him the Pioneer League for his professional debut. Moustakas didn’t disappoint in his debut, and followed his impressive (albeit short) 2008 showing with an .805 OPS as a 19 year old shortstop in the Midwest League the following season. Entering 2009, Baseball America ranked Moustakas the 11th best prospect in all of baseball, while numerous other sources ranked him even higher.
The record holder for most career homeruns in California preparatory school history with 52, Moustakas struggled to carry his raw power over to his professional career early on. His bat saw a particular power-outage in 2009 while he was playing in the Carolina League with Wilmington. Wilmington is a difficult environment for young power hitters, and Moustakas watched his stock drop drastically when he consistently disappointed at the plate. He hit just .250 with a .718 OPS in ’09, and his having to move defensive positions from shortstop to third base made matters even worse.
Despite his recent struggles, coming in to 2010, Moustakas was still regarded as a fantastic power prospect. His lack of opposite field pop and his stocky increased the doubt created by his power ’09 performance. To say the least, Moustakas did his best to prove his doubters wrong in ’10. He absolutely tore apart the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues to the tune of a (combined) .322 batting average, .999 OPS and a Minor-League-leading 36 home runs. He was named 2010’s Texas League Player of the Year last August.
While he has seen his fair share of disappointment, Moustakas’ development has actually moved at a reasonable pace. The young sluggers power has finally emerged–possibly due to the additional bulk he’s added throughout the past couple of seasons. His body type has drastically changed since he was drafted, and while he has lost much of his athleticism, he’s strengthened his core and legs. Added strength to his already fluid swing has allowed him to tap in to his power potential and he know projects to have plus-plus power in the Big Leagues. He could belt between 25 and 30 home runs in the major leagues annually while posting good batting numbers. His strong hands and forearms afford him better bat control than most stocky power hitters have. While his body is maxed out with muscle he hasn’t stiffened up and his swing is still smooth and he has become more than a pure pull-hitter.
Moustakas’ thick build and poor range will keep him from every being better than MLB average at third base, but his plus arm and improved foot work should allow him to stay there through his twenties. If he does have to move positions, his strong arm could play in right field, and he could be a serviceable Nick Swisher-type on defense.
Moustakas runs the bases well for someone of his body type, but he still has well below average speed. His height isn’t ideal for a power hitter, and his frame is already swollen with muscle—leaving little room for physical projection. His once solid athleticism has deteriorated considerably but his work ethic and arm strength should allow him to remain at third base. His slow running speed isn’t base-clogging and he’s a smart baserunner.
While many of his doubters picture him developing into a player closer to Erik Hinske than to Matt Williams, Moustakas has the tools to prove them sorely mistaken. He has the bat to hit between .280 and .300, and belt around 30 home runs a season in the major leagues. While he employs an aggressive approach at the plate, his good hand-eye coordination and fluid swing keep his strikeout totals low. If he develops improved plate discipline, he could evolve into the 2009 version of Nick Swisher.