The Royals received some devastating news this week when they learned third baseman Mike Moustakas will miss the rest of the season with a tear in his ACL. However the silver lining is that Royals fans will get to see the debut of outfielder Brett Eibner, who was called up from Omaha to replace Moustakas on the roster. So who is Brett Eibner?
Brett William Eibner was born in The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, Texas. His high school, The Woodlands High School, is a baseball powerhouse that has produced big leaguers like Paul Goldschmidt and several high draft picks such as Jameson Taillon and Royals minor league pitcher Bryan Brickhouse. He was drafted in the fourth round out of high school by his hometown Astros, but passed them up to attend the University of Arkansas.
At Arkansas, Eibner excelled both in the outfield and on the pitcher's mound, playing with future big leaguers like James McCann, Mike Bolsinger, and Drew Smyly. In 2009 he had one of the program's most memorable home runs, with a two-run home run against Virginia in the ninth inning of an elimination game during the College World Series. In his junior season in 2010, he hit .333 and led the team with 22 home runs. That June, he was selected in the second round of the June amateur draft, the 54th player selected overall, by the Kansas City Royals.
Many thought Eibner would begin his professional career as a pitcher, but the Royals liked his power potential and he was assigned to low A ball with Kane County of the Midwest League. He hit for good power with 12 home runs in 76 games, but struggled to make contact, hitting .213 and striking out 90 times. He also missed half the season with a torn thumb ligament. The next year he moved up to Wilmington (High A ball), a difficult hitting environment, and hit below the Mendoza Line while striking out 34% of the time. He still managed to hit for good power - 15 home runs while playing games at Frawley Stadium is quite an achievement.
Projections made before the regular season.
Eibner got off to a terrible start in 2013 at Northwest Arkansas (AA), but by the end of the year he had a respectable line of .243/.330/.451 with 19 home runs, and at age 24, he seemed to be on the doorstep of the Major Leagues. That winter, he was left off the 40-man roster and exposed to the Rule 5 draft, but went unselected. He was moved up to Omaha in 2014, but struggled to adjust to the promotion. He lost two months to an abdominal injury, and ended the year rehabbing in Wilmington.
The 2015 season may have been a make-or-break season for Eibner and he responded with a huge season. He destroyed the Cactus League with six home runs in spring training, but a bruised foot near the end of camp hurt his chances of making the team. He went to Omaha and hit a career high .303, over 50 points higher than he had ever hit. But injuries again set his career back, as a thumb contusion cost him a shot at a September call up.
|Year||Team||Lev||G||PA||HR||RBI||SB||BB %||K %||BA||OBP||SLG|
(numbers from Baseball-Reference.com)
Eibner was finally added to the 40-man roster last winter, and continued his torrid hitting at Omaha this season. He was fourth in the Pacific Coast League in home runs, with an average over .300 when he was promoted to the big leagues for the first time. When interviewed by Minda Haas Kuhlmann before the season, Eibner knew it was just a matter of time before he received the call.
"I always feel like the front office and coaching staff knew what I could do. It's just a matter of being able to stay on the field and being able to do it for a full season,"
Brett Eibner brings good power potential for the Royals, the question is whether he can make contact with big league pitching. He has cut down his strikeout rate in recent years, which has caused his average to climb. He has not shown much of a platoon split the last few years, so he could play against both righties and lefties. He has decent, not great speed, and is an above-average defender at the corners with a terrific arm.
The Royals consider Eibner a cerebral guy, and laud his athleticism.
"There’s a handful of players in our system that have multiple tools," Picollo says. "He can run, he can throw, he’s got power. He can really play defense. He was one of those guys we felt like, even if he’s not doing one thing well for a period of time, he’s going to do other things well. So guys like that fit on a major-league team."
The Pacific Coast League is littered with 27-year olds who can hit, and Eibner may be the next Kila Kaaaihue, a AAA player who never adjusted to hit big league pitching. However injuries have set Eibner's career back at times, and it is possible that he something has clicked with him in the last two seasons. He flashes the power potential the Royals need right now, so if he can finally live up to his potential and make the most of his opportunity, he could find himself sticking in Kansas City.