Thursday’s game wasn’t on TV, but listening to the radio and following on Twitter, one thing was obvious: Mike Aviles is lost. Poor plate appearances, bad base running, questionable defense… Aviles has it all.
Still, the news was surprising. After the game, the Royals sent Aviles to Omaha and called up Mike Moustakas.
Viva Le Process!
After a slow start, Moustakas is on the rise for the Storm Chasers. Overall, he’s hitting .287/.347/.498 in 250 plate appearances. Like Eric Hosmer prior, Moose has earned his call to The Show.
Several thoughts immediately spring to mind.
— First, by optioning Aviles, the Royals have destroyed the trade value of Wilson Betemit. Seriously, where does he play? You don’t call up one of the top prospects in the game to platoon or to play a few times a week. I know the Royals are trying to sell Betemit as Alcides Escobar’s backup at short, but I’m not buying. Betemit has played 407 innings of shortstop in his career, but hasn’t appeared there in a game since he played 57 innings for the Yankees in 2008. He’s played even less at second, which is now the sole territory of Chris Getz.
Betemit is a good hitter… One of the best on this team. Currently at .290/.350/.409 he certainly would have drawn interest at the trade deadline. Honestly, he probably would have been difficult to move for value given that everyone in the baseball universe knew he was blocking Moustakas and the Royals would be desperate to make a deal. Moving him to the bench scotches that value completely.
— Second, we will never, ever see a pinch hitter for the Shortstop Jesus, Alcides Escobar. As I said, I don’t buy the “Betemit at shortstop” meme the Royals are trotting out. We know Yost places a premium on Escobar’s glove – although he completely oversells the defensive contribution of Escobar to justify his bat. He wouldn’t play Aviles there and that was his best defensive position. You think he’s going to remove Escobar from the game in the late innings and have to replace his glove with Betemit’s? No way that happens. No. Way.
It all comes down again to roster math. Which Dayton Moore fails on a regular basis. As Moustakas warmed up for the Storm Chasers, I thought GMDM would need to move Betemit before he could bring up the prospect. There wasn’t a rush… It’s not like the Royals are contenders, so I figured Betemit would be a goner sometime around the All-Star Game with Moose up after the break. Of course, that makes too much sense.
Aviles can play three infield positions… None of them well. But he’s competent enough to sub from time to time. Now that flexibility has vanished. And the Royals are going to seriously try to win games with a double play tandem of Escobar and Getz playing the full nine innings.
— Third, I question the timing. Why now? I wonder if it’s because the Royals are heading to Anaheim, just down the road from Chatsworth, where Moustakas grew up. Would they call-up a prospect just to give him an opportunity to make his debut in his hometown? Seems kind of… strange. As I said, there’s really no hurry to bring him up right now. Moose has certainly earned the call, but there’s no harm at all in keeping him on the farm until the roster situation gets settled.
Super-two status isn’t an issue here. We’re well past the cutoff date.
— Fourth, the Royals will have to make a move on the 40-man roster to make room for Moustakas. Who gets the chop? Kevin Pucetas has struggled in Omaha, but I wonder if the Royals will expose a starting pitcher. Manny Pina has struggled to hit in Omaha and doesn’t figure in the future anyway. Jesse Chavez kind of stinks. Any one of those guys is expendable and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them removed.
— Finally, what are expectations for Moustakas? He is a slow starter when he moves levels, which isn’t unheard of. I’m thinking he plays the rest of the season at a level in the neighborhood of .270/.325/.450.
Keep this in mind, the third base position in the AL is horrible from an offensive standpoint this year. The average AL third baseman is hitting .234/.305/.369. Their .674 OPS is the second worst when ranked by position, ahead of only left fielders. That’s right, AL third basemen are offensively worse than both catchers and shortstops this year. If (and when) Moustakas struggles, we’ll need to maintain a healthy dose of perspective.
Overall, I’m pleased Moustakas is up and The Process continues to roll. It’s the little things that have me worried. And they will continue to have me worried about the future of this franchise.
Calling up a hot prospect is easy. Managing a roster is difficult.