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2015 Season Projections: Mike Moustakas

How long until we shake the third baseman tree?

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Dayton Moore has often said it takes 1,500 at-bats until you know what you have with a player. With 1,830 Major League at-bats under his belt, Mike Moustakas is a pretty established player, and the results have been fairly disappointing. While Moustakas has been fantastic at times with the glove, his bat has been a disaster, leading to a brief demotion to Omaha last summer. Moustakas was able to get his bat going at a fortunate time, setting the franchise record for post-season home runs, but the flaws to his game are still apparent heading into 2015.

Since Mike Moustakas entered the league in 2011, only three players in baseball with at least 1,500 plate appearances have a worse on-base percentage than his .290 OBA - shortstop Zack Cozart, utility infielder Mike Aviles, and catcher J.P. Arencibia. However, Moustakas' low on-base percentage isn't necessarily the result of a failure to draw walks. Would you believe Mike Moustakas had the best walk rate of his career last year at 7.0%? Or that his walk rate was better than Billy Butler or Eric Hosmer? Or Albert Pujols, Melky Cabrera, or Brian McCann?

Moustakas is not averse to drawing a walk, rather his on-base percentage has been terribly low his entire career because his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has been terrible his entire career. While it may be because he has just been unlucky, its more likely due to his upper-cut approach that leads to pop-ups. Since entering the league in 2011, only outfielder Chris Young has a higher infield fly-ball rate than Moustakas in baseball. To his credit, Moustakas has cut down on that rate in each season, dropping to a career low 15.1% pop-up rate last season.

2014 Season .212 .271 .361 15 54 0.7
Career per 162 games .236 .290 .379 16 63 1.8
2015 ZIPS .242 .295 .399 17 61 2.1
2015 Steamer .248 .304 .414 16 59 2.5
2015 PECOTA .241 .293 .383 14 59 1.4

Additionally, Moustakas has made poor contact because he swings at too many pitches out of the zone. Kevin Ruprecht summed it perfectly in his season review of Moose.

At one point, Moustakas actually had a higher contact rate on pitches outside the zone compared to pitches inside the zone. You can't be a successful offensive major leaguer with this offensive O-contact rate.

The projections like Moustakas to bounce back in 2015 after a disastrous 0-21 slump to begin the season doomed him and he ended up with the 18th worst OPS in baseball. He has said that radical defensive shifts got in his head last year and has resolved to beat the shift this year. Moustakas saw the tenth most shifts against him, which could be part of why his BABIP last season was the lowest of his career and the second-lowest in all of baseball.

Despite his highlight reel plays, the metrics have Moustakas rated at about an average third baseman. He was 16th among all third basemen in UZR, and his 0.3 dWAR was just 19th. By the eye test, he shows pretty good range, and at least looks like an average-to-above average defender.

Mike Moustakas is entering a pretty pivotal season in his career. While the Royals still seem to like his glove at third enough to consider moving prospect Hunter Dozier to the outfield, if he continues to hit near the Mendoza Line, they will be forced to look at other options. Its not that long ago that we thought Moustakas could be an All-Star. At the 2012 All-Star break he was hitting .272/.331/.497, enough to warrant attention as a possible All-Star. Since then, he has hit just .220/.275/.354 over 1194 plate appearances. After four seasons in the big leagues, Mike Moustakas may be showing us what he really is. And the Royals may decide its time to move on.

What do you expect from Mike Moustakas in 2015?