Moustakas the latest Royal reward

Aaron Crow, Danny Duffy and Eric Hosmer have already made their big-league debuts this season. On Friday night it was Mike Moustakas’s turn after his call-up on Thursday evening. The 22-year-old third baseman has shown a great deal of power in his minor-league career, and will look to solidify the infield corner spots opposite Hosmer -- the team’s top prospect -- at first base.

Prior to the season, every scouting publication had the Royals’ system ranked as tops in all of baseball. With a combination of powerful hitters and big-time arms on the mound, they had already landed six players on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects. Moustakas came ranked 23rd overall after landing at the 68th slot on Law’s list in 2010.

The young left-handed hitter hit 10 home runs for Triple-A Omaha prior to his call up, and hammered 36 between Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season. His power is real and he has shown the ability to hit for a respectable .282 average throughout his minor-league career.

One knock against “Moose” has been his poor strikeout-to-walk ratio. His .331 OBP spread across his two trips to Triple-A is far from impressive, and is mostly due to his lack of walks. His batting average was .290 for Omaha, but he has walked just 27 times while striking out in 69 of his 448 plate appearances. Add in the fact that major league pitchers will likely expand that ratio and you can see a minor reason to worry.

Even if Moustakas does struggle this season, the experience with the big-league ballclub will certainly help him next season when even more of the Royals prospects can move through the system. The solid base built by Dayton Moore and the front office is impressive; despite making some questionable decisions for his major league team, Moore has made a point to build through the system and with the wave cresting and coming in, it looks like he has succeeded.

Even so, not everything is working out according to plan. The system was dealt a blow a week ago when it was announced that the team’s top pitching prospect, John Lamb, will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss over a calendar year of baseball. This will stall his development, but as we have seen through the performances of many players, it may not necessarily hurt his future performance. Mike Montgomery, rated as the 28th best prospect in baseball by Law, is the team’s next highest rated pitching prospect. Currently, he is struggling with control problems (5.2 BB/9) at Triple-A, so a promotion this season seems unlikely unless something changes dramatically.

In the meantime, Moustakas’ promotion is likely the last of the big-name prospects to land and stick in Kansas City this season. His arrival caps off a season of franchise-altering promotions. The team is still not and likely will not be in contention in 2011, but as these young players gain experience they will gain confidence. In a division with no clear-cut franchise far ahead of the rest, a few wise transactions by the front office to fit with the prospects could easily get the Royals around the corner.

As previously mentioned, I would not expect Moustakas to light up the world as he begins his career. Hosmer certainly has, posting a .349 OBP and five home runs to date, but his approach in the minors was much more refined than Moustakas’s. Moustakas has a great swing that will allow him to hit for average and power, but the inefficiencies in regards to his approach at his plate will hurt as he begins his tenure as a major leaguer. Defensively, Moustakas has a terrific arm and limited range, according to Law. Luckily, he will be playing next to arguably the top fielding shortstop in all of baseball in Alcides Escobar, so he should receive a bit help on that end.

The first ballgame of what should be a long career was a success, as Moustakas singled, walked and scored a run in a Royals’ 4-2 win. The walk was on four pitches by a wild Ervin Santana, who finished his night for the Angels with five strikeouts and five walks. For the Royals, this is hopefully the first of many successful nights for Hosmer’s new counterpart and the Royals’ next big bat.


Ben Duronio writes about the Braves for the Capitol Avenue Club, part of the SweetSpot network. You can follow or tweet him at @Ben_Duronio.