Tuesday, February 24, 2009

KC's Future 3B: Moustakas or Gordon?

Baseball America's annual list of the Top 100 Prospects was released today, and the Kansas City Royals have two players among the publication's Top 25. Kansas City is one of five organizations with two prospects among the Top 25, while Baltimore and Florida are tied for the lead with three each.

Third baseman Mike Moustakas (pictured), Kansas City's top overall selection in the 2007 draft, is ranked 13th on the list. And last year's top pick for the Royals, first baseman Eric Hosmer, is listed 24th. Both players are projected to make their Major League Baseball debuts during the 2010 season, which presents an interesting question for Royals fans.

With Kansas City's top draft pick in 2006, Alex Gordon, currently manning third base, exactly where does "Moose" fit into the Royals' plans? Is Moustakas the future starter at the hot corner for KC, or will he be utilized in another role?

Moustakas has already gone through one position shift. He was drafted as a shortstop, and was the 18th-ranked prospect by Baseball America in 2008. But about midway through last season, he was moved to third base, and he played 59 games there.

Even so, many people predict that Moustakas would be a natural fit in a corner outfield spot, with his strong arm and raw power at the plate. But if that's where the Royals envision him, wouldn't it have made more sense to have moved him there right away, rather than have him work to become a third baseman?

Playing for Burlington, Moustakas got off to a slow start in his first full season in the Minors, but wound up becoming the first teenager since 1992 to lead the Midwest League in home runs (22). He played in 126 games at Burlington, finishing the season with a line of .272/.337/.468 with 25 doubles, three triples, 77 runs scored, 71 runs batted in, 43 walks, and 86 strikeouts in 496 at bats.

After the All-Star break, Moustakas batted .321/.392/.557 with 13 home runs, helping Burlington win the Midwest League Championship Series for the first time since 1999. It also marked the first time since 1999 that a full-season affiliate of the Royals had won a league title.

Moving Moustakas to third base makes you wonder if Kansas City sees Alex Gordon as the long-term answer there, or whether there are plans in place to move Gordon. The logical move would be for Gordon to shift to first base. That is, until you remember that the hope is to have Hosmer playing there within a couple seasons, and Mike Jacobs is only signed for one year. So the move needs to be to a corner outfield spot, but which player is moved, Moustakas or Gordon?

It's an issue that needs to be addressed, and maybe it already has been in closed-door meetings involving the Royals' front office staff. But, then again, it's a nice problem to have.

Mike Moustakas Photo Credit: Chrish Wish

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