Demote Moose

KANSAS CITY, MO - JULY 24: Third baseman Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals runs toward the dugout after the end of an inning during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 24, 2011 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

I pen this blog posting knowing full well that there is no chance that Mike Moustakas is demoted back to Omaha this season. I also fully acknowledge that there are very good arguments for simply biting the bullet and letting Moose struggle through a miserable rookie season. It feels almost taboo to suggest that the great Moustakas should be demoted and frankly, if no one else is going to say it, I will.

Demote Moose.

Right now Moustakas is hitting .191/.246/.240. He's played in 49 games and now has over 200 PAs as a Major Leaguer. Aside from last week's three day sabbatical, the Royals have pretty dutifully given him consistently playing time. Assuming a massive failure to begin the season, the Royals needed to promote Moustakas this season, which they did. They promoted him after the likely Super Two deadline, yet early enough that he could receive significant experience. If he remains a Royal all season, he'll approach playing 100 games. This is all fine and good, except Moose does not appear ready for the Major Leagues.

Here's why I advocate demoting him:

  • His hitting is approaching crisis-level bad. We've had some random singles recently to stay close to .200, but this has been a chronic problem for a month. Numbers this bad suggest multiple issues, not a simple tweak or adjustment here or there. It has been remarked upon many times that learning of a very basic nature just doesn't happen very easily at the Major League level. At Omaha the Royals can tell Moose, "get back to doing A, B, and C each at bat. Don't worry about the numbers, don't worry how you look, just focus on [tapping your foot or whatever]." That's much easier to do in AAA than in the American League.
  • Honestly, he wasn't Babe Ruth at AAA in the first place. Hosmer hit .400 for a month, which in baseball culture is golden. Moose had a .287/.347/.498 line in the hitter friendly PCL. The notion that he had "nothing left to learn/prove" at AAA is simply incorrect. He was a touted prospect having a nice campaign. No more, no less.
  • This is normal. Moose is 22. He's had a bad 50 games. Going back to AAA to work on things would be entirely normal. That's why AAA is there. Unlike the Kila situation, where the Royals were dealing with a much older player, and essentially deciding to end his career after a bad 200 PAs, sending Moose back down says nothing about his future with the team. It would wholly fit into a solid player development rubric. In reality, there is nothing radical about any of this.
  • The Royals have tried a three-day break, so clearly they know there are problems. At some point, you have to worry about bad habits being formed, and Moose's swing and timing getting further screwed up.
  • A demotion tomorrow gives Moustakas three solid weeks in Omaha (if they want to use that much) followed by plenty of time to rejoin the team in September for a chance at redemption and all the touchy-feely he's part of the future these guys have to learn how to play together type of stuff.
  • In the end, although it is likely irrelevant, I would consider the service time issue. Later in his career, unexpected demotions for an injured/struggling Alex Gordon did give the Royals a contractual advantage. Multiple short and off-script demotions of Billy Butler -- who was generally hitting much better -- ended up saving the Royals a service time year as well.
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