Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Control the Inner Half

When it comes to the Royals future, there aren't many players who could tip the scales one way or another more than Mike Moustakas. Watching him blast home runs all over Arvest Ballpark in 2010, was an experience I'll never forget, but I'd love to add some memories of him doing the same in Kauffman Stadium.

On Thursday, Fox Sports Kansas City' Jeffrey Flanagan brought us this article on how the young Royals hitter is approaching the 2014 season. Here's what Moustakas had to say regarding his off-season work in Winter Ball when he hit .288/.360/.515 in 66 at bats with Cardenales de Lara:
"We worked on driving the ball the other way, and doing damage that way. If pitchers came in, I was still able to get my hands in and pull it. But that's how I got into a funk last year - I tried to pull everything. Pedro just told me (pulling every pitch) is not going to work."
 I worry that a big part of the reason Moustakas hasn't developed into the hitter that he could be is the result of poor development by the Royals front office. Having three different hitting coaches over a two year period has done no favors for the Royals former 1st round pick.

Moustakas's top strength is his ability to turn on anything on the inside part of the plate. He was lauded coming up for his incredible bat speed. But what did the Royals do? They tried to turn him into a guy that would spray line drives all over the field. Maybe they felt he needed to make this adjustment to excel at the Major League level, but they sure didn't push that too much to Moustakas when he was in the minors.

This is not to say that Moustakas was a dead pull guy in the Minor Leagues either. On the contrary what I was most impressed with when watching him in the Texas League was his ability to hit the ball with authority to all fields. One Royals executive even told me that there are regularly a few guys with legitimate power at the Double-A level, but sometimes years can go by without guys with the refined power that Moustakas displayed.

Following, Moustakas's disappointing 2012 campaign, the Royals made a hitting coach change. Then came in a couple of hitting coaches who wanted to lead the league in fewest home runs. Once again they failed to play to the California high school career home run record holder's strengths. Somewhere along the way even an uncle chimed in about how far Moustakas had deviated from the approach that once made him as fearsome as any hitter in the minor leagues.

I hope Moustakas can find the balanced approach that he once had. He needs to be able to shorten his stroke with two strikes and stop rolling over on outside pitches and hitting pop ups a mile into the air. But most importantly, Moustakas needs to command the inner half of the plate and when pitchers try to test him inside he needs to punish them just like he did for the Naturals in 2010.

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