This is sort of a new series I’m going to try out. The inspiration is from Jason Parks, as he wrote a series of “what could go wrong” pieces on Baseball Prospectus. He is a superior writer and talent evaluator, but I got the hopeless dreamer thing down.
The Royals had the good fortune of witnessing just about every potential blue chipper in their system break out in 2010. “Break out” is probably a wee bit misleading, as it implies they were garbage before, but the turn of events was enough to vault the Royals from a middling system with potential to one of the best farms assembled–not just in 2011, but possibly ever.
Mike Moustakas was one of those players who found himself back on the right track. The second overall pick in the 2007 draft (after David Price), Moustakas made his full season debut in 2008 and hit .272/.337/.468 as a 19-year-old at Class-A Burlington. The Royals decided to move him on up to High-A in 2009, and Moustakas didn’t respond well. He still showed some pop (16 home runs), but amassed a line of .250/.297/.421.
In the world of prospecting, a down season can lead to withdrawn enthusiasm –particularly when the struggle coincides with exposure to a higher level of competition. Baseball America had previously ranked Moustakas as the 18th and 13th best prospect, yet dropped him to 80th after his mediocre 2009 season.
The Royals persisted and kept Moustakas on his developmental path. He opened the season with Double-A Northwest Arkansas and went bonkers, hitting 21 home runs in less than 300 plate appearances with an OPS over 1000. The Royals had no choice but to push him to Triple-A Omaha, where he continued to hit well, with a slash line of .293/.314/.564.
It’s pretty easy to see where I’m going with this, but 2010 was Moustakas’ 21-year-old season and he began the season at Double-A. Tim Beckham is 21 and is hitting .308/.357/.538 after his first 10 games at Double-A. The comparison is imperfect, as Moustakas had more success before 2010 than Beckham, but there are some similarities in pedigree, level, down years, and age.
After nearly falling off the list entirely, Moustakas was ranked by BA as the ninth-best prospect in baseball prior to the 2011 season while Beckham was unranked for the first time in his career. If Beckham can follow Moustakas’ breakout –heck, if he can just sustain most of what he’s done so far—he will take a similar leap back into relevancy.