Mike Moustakas: Buy Or Sell?
The 2014 campaign for Mike Moustakas has been a tale of two halves. He started off 2014 cold as ice and was demoted to Triple-A on May 22. While in the minors, he appeared to regain his form. The Royals gave him another chance and he performed well enough to finish the season at third base for Kansas City. The Royals have reached the World Series with “Moose” batting from the nine spot where he’s been a leading offensive force. Is this a sign of things to come for the former top prospect?
Playoff dominance aside, the 2007 second overall pick has not impressed at the Major League level. Moustakas has a career slash line of .236/.290/.379 in four seasons. With Royals third base prospect Hunter Dozier (ROTOscouting Report) still a ways away from being MLB ready, Moustakas is a safe bet to maintain the starting position at third. With consistent plate appearances seemingly in hand, is a breakout season coming?
Starting with age, Mike Moustakas is 26 and just entering the age period expected to be his prime years. Looking at player type, Moustakas is a rarity because he hits for power with a low batting average, yet does not strike out often. His z-contact% (contact rate on pitches in the strike zone) in 2014 was at 87.5% which should be a 17.1% strikeout rate. And while that rate is solid, it is higher than his actual rate of 14.8% in 2014 which indicates he struck out less than expected. Regression is expected, but a low career strikeout rate (16.7%) means a dramatic increase in strikeouts is unlikely.
Moustakas posted the lowest BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of his career which had a big impact on his batting average. The Royals third baseman disappointed with a dismal .212 batting average. Based on BABIP posted last season, Moustakas’ batting average should have been .219, or slightly higher. Over his career, a BABIP of .260 and batting average of .236 is 10 points lower than the expected value of .246. These numbers indicate a resurgence in batting average, but also point to .250 being his high water mark.
What Mike Moustakas does best is hit home runs. If he were to play a complete 162 game season, he should hit 16 home runs per year based on career norms. However, his fly ball rate (FB%) indicates an increase in home runs is imminent. His FB% last season was 41.2% which which points 23 home runs over a full season as opposed to the 17 he was on pace for. His career FB% sits at 44.6% meaning an average 26 home runs per full season is possible, if not probable. It’s his peak, however, as fly ball rates don’t support a player capable of hitting 30 home runs.
The Verdict: Mike Moustakas
As home runs have been more difficult to come by at the MLB level, a shift in 5×5 values from speed to power has occurred. Five years ago, Moustakas wouldn’t be as valuable as he is now. In 2013, Matt Dominguez was a $4 player after batting .241 with 21 home runs. For comparison’s sake, Kyle Seager accumulated $13 in value by batting .260 with 22 home runs and nine steals. If Mike Moustakas is able to achieve a .245 batting average with 22-26 home runs, he’s a fine corner infield option and fringe 12-team third baseman. Hot playoffs aside, this level of production from waiver wire fodder is impressive and presents and opportunity to buy back in on Mike Moustakas at pennies on the dollar in dynasty leagues. For a rebuilding owner, these types of acquisitions are key to shortening the rebuilding curve. – Mike Newman
16 Oct 2014 / Edward Sutelan / 1
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