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June 25, 2013

Thoughts on Royals' Moustakas, Hosmer and figuring things out

Sam Mellinger writes on his blog that everything the Royals do depends on Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas figuring it out. The signs are positive. After a brutal beginning, Hosmer’s production is creeping back toward league average. Moustakas is still behind, but he has two hits in each of his last four games, including two doubles.

The off day found the Royals in an interesting place, three games under .500, 6 1/2 back of the first-place Tigers and four ahead of the last-place White Sox. They were in first in early May, last place in early June, and now find themselves somewhere in between.

This is an absolutely critical season for general manager Dayton Moore, which is why your boy wrote they should make a move to give themselves more balance and avoid becoming another Kansas City team whose enormous failure cancels out an enormous strength.

The names I mentioned are right fielders, since Jeff Francoeur’s playing time has sunk with his production and the Royals appear less than convinced that David Lough is the long-term answer. I could’ve put second basemen in there, too. The Royals are, roughly, two bats from being a real contender and those are the obvious spots.

But, there are a few things that even those “fixes” don’t actually “fix.”

Alcides Escobar has really benefited from the struggles of Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, in the sense that fewer people are noticing that he is tracking a remarkably inept offensive season.

Right now, Escobar is hitting .250 with a .277 on-base and .337 slugging percentage. That’s actually an improvement over the last few weeks but still calculates as a 68 OPS+, which means his offensive production when adjusted for league effects and ballparks is 32 percent less than league average.

Since 1995 — a date admittedly pulled from random — only 17 players have had 600 or more plate appearances with an OPS+ of 70 or below. Only one — Milwaukee’s Casey McGehee — has done it in the last five years.

That’s a hole in the lineup few are talking about.

All of this, again — and I’ll continue to mention this often because it hangs over everything the Royals do — depends on Hosmer and Moustakas figuring it out.

On that point, the signs are actually positive. After a brutal beginning, Hosmer’s production is creeping back toward league average and in June he’s hitting .306 with a .355 on-base and .471 slugging percentage.

Moustakas is still behind, but has two hits in each of his last four games, including two doubles. His average is above .200, and while it’s ridiculous to be overly encouraged by a presumed franchise cornerstone hitting above .200 when we’re 73 games into the season, well, it’s better than the alternative.

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