Adjusting the Time Table for Mike Moustakas

Barring the unforeseen, it is now established that Mike Moustakas will not make the Opening Day roster. We'll never quite know how likely that might have been, because the situation never played out in such a way that it became an issue. To this distant observer, there were actually three scenarios. If Moustakas had come out and had a monster, no, monster  Spring Training, he might very well have made the roster to begin the season. If the young Californian had merely had a very good Spring Training, perhaps along the lines of what Hosmer actually did, he might have set himself up get called up in mid-April, after a courtesy trip to AAA to protect a service time year. But Moose didn't have a monster Spring Training, or even a good one. He hit just .227/.370/.364 in the friendly Arizona air, and that was that. Thus, scenario three: a presumably longer trip to Omaha.

It's a cliche to point out that no one cares about Spring Training stats, and if ever there was a team that definitively didn't, it would be the Royals. In this case, the stats happen to align with something the Royals already want to do, so they're useful. If you'd like to hear more of my speculation, I'll offer that the Royals likely have a "lock-up, arb-buyout" contract ready to offer Moustakas. The Evan Longoria contract is the gold standard for these kinds of deals, though for now the Royals can put that back into the filing cabinet.

So when will Moustakas make his debut in Kansas City? Obviously, Opening Day is ruled out. The next big day would be April 11th (I believe) which would have been the cutoff for not losing a full year of service time. This seems deeply unlikely now. Moustakas isn't working through an injury and he isn't a pitcher who might plausibly another week or two to stretch himself out. Other than merely gaming the system, the Royals don't have a narrative to demote Moustakas for ten days. This isn't a big problem however, because the Royals won't want to do this, and Moustakas hasn't fully earned it.

After early April, the next hinge moment comes in late May through early June. If the Royals keep Moustakas in the minors past that time, he won't be able to earn Super 2 status, which will accelerate his arbitration schedule. In the last few years, these rules have went from being obscure to relatively well-known, so I won't go on further. At the point at which Moustakas isn't going to make the Opening Day roster, it's almost a given that he won't be around until early June.

And that's all well and good, but when it comes to the actual baseball reality here, it's fascinating to think about Moose's future. After destroying AA, Moustakas had a very interesting campaign at AAA Omaha. I don't do the scouting stuff (being one of the uninitiated, of course) but his stat line tells an interesting story. Posting a .293/.314/.564 line bespeaks a supremely talented guy bursting through and producing good results, despite a lack of polish. At Omaha, he was basically peak-level Jose Guillen at the plate, or, if you prefer, what Miguel Olivo looks like on a hot streak. A solid average, very good power, and more outs than an average player. Forget the walks if you want, just look at the out percentage. A .314 OBP means you're making too many outs. And when a guy is 22, it's perfectly acceptable to give him another two months in the minors.

The assumption, finally, is that Mike Moustakas will make his Major League debut in 2011. Frankly, barring injury, I can't see a scenario in which this doesn't happen. Even if he struggles, the team may decide to promote him anyway. Moustakas's performance in 2011 is almost irrelevant, impacting the level of hype more than anything else. He's an A Prospect and a Moore guy and top prospects simply don't spend much time at AAA these days. My prediction for a debut is Tuesday, June 21, the start of a home-stand against the Diamondbacks and Cubs.

Although, there's always that Wild Card of the Longoria Scenario, in some form, playing out. Everyone expected the Rays to play the service time game in 2008. Instead, Longoria made the Opening Day roster (advantage him) then signed an absurdly team-friendly deal approximately six hours later. I don't think that happens, but there's nothing like ending a blog post with a hypothetical and a dramatic shift, so...

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