Minor League Report: Mike Moustakas
Shortstop just wants to play ball at the Major League level
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- At this early stage of Mike Moustakas' career, the consensus is that the 19-year-old left-handed batter will hit. The question is, what position will he be playing when he's accumulating all those doubles, home runs and RBIs?
For now, the Royals will keep Moustakas at shortstop, the position he played for Chatsworth (Calif.) High School. He loves the position but...
"It doesn't matter where I play. As long as I'm in the lineup, I don't really care," he said. "I just love to play the game. As long as I'm on the field I'm happy."
Moustakas, the nation's No. 2 pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft, is scheduled to start this season at Class A Burlington, Iowa. After a last-minute signing last summer, he played just briefly at Rookie level Idaho Falls. At the moment, he's going through his first Spring Training in the Royals' Minor League camp.
"It's pretty exciting, actually, I'm having a really good time," Moustakas said. "I get to hang out with some of the big leaguers here and there but there's nothing better than playing baseball every day."
The 6-foot, 210-pounder, in his senior year at Chatsworth, hit .577 and 24 home runs. That earned him national player of the year honors.
For Moustakas, it all began at home. His dad, a former college football player also named Mike, was his coach.
"He was always getting on me about doing the little things, playing catch the right way," Moustakas said. "If I went 4-for-5 in a game, he'd ask me why I didn't get that fifth hit. He'd be happy about the four hits, but he didn't want to talk about those, he'd want to talk about why I got out and he'd help me with that at-bat. He'd help with the things I did wrong instead of the things I did right."
His mom, Connie, used to play softball and that came in handy.
"She'd get out there and throw me batting practice every now and then. She hasn't missed a game in about eight years. ... She was more like the motivational side," Moustakas said. "You could hear her in the stands from wherever you were playing because she was always enthused about the game. You could always hear my mom. She's a great lady, too."
Growing up, he also picked up tips from his uncle, Tom Robson, who played for the Rangers and later was a hitting coach for them, the Mets and the Reds.
"Then my coach [Chatsworth's Tom Meusborn] kind of finessed everything that I had and made me a better hitter than I was. He made me bear down on the small things," Moustakas said.
For all of his hitting exploits -- he had a state record 54 home runs in high school -- one of his biggest moments came when he was playing left field in the 2006 World Junior Championships in Cuba.
"We had a bunch of great athletes on our team, Justin Jackson was playing shortstop and Matt Dominguez [a high school teammate] was playing third so they stuck me out in left field," he said.
"The best hitter in Cuba [Dayan Viciedo] hit a towering home run and I kind of just jumped over the fence and brought it back. It was probably the best play I ever made, at any position."
His position, right now, continues to be shortstop. He has a very strong arm, good hands and is working on improving his lateral movements in camp. J.J. Picollo, director of player development, said that Moustakas could play anywhere in the infield.
"People have asked us about him catching, but that's a big move to put a guy behind the plate," Picollo said. "He's caught a little bit but he's never really done it. In the outfield, he runs OK but he's not a plus runner or anything. To move a guy out there in our stadium with the gaps and the lines -- it plays tough. He'd have to be above-average to show us he could handle it at Kauffman Stadium.
"The best thing about Mike is he's just a baseball player. You could tell him tomorrow to go play another position and it's not going to bother him a bit. Kind of like [Mark] Teahen approaches everything."
Meantime, Moustakas is busy absorbing life as a pro.
"I'm loving every second of this," he said.
Class of '07: Adrian Ortiz, drafted in the fifth round (156th overall) last June, is competing for a job with Class A Wilmington or Burlington.
"A real athletic center fielder, a plus runner, basestealer," Picollo said. "He bunts well, runs the bases well, plays the outfield well. We've played him in right field as well because he's got a strong arm.
"He was a 20-year-old junior in college last year. He's out of Puerto Rico and went to Pepperdine [University]. It's an odd combination but he's a pretty advanced player so I think he can handle [High-A] Wilmington."
Last summer Ortiz batted .326 and had 17 steals in 24 attempts in 61 games for Rookie Idaho Falls. Of his 86 hits, 76 were singles.
They're No. 1: Left-hander Matt Campbell, a first-round Draft pick in 2004, is battling to win a spot with Wilmington. He's been plagued by shoulder problems.
After missing 2006, he came back and pitched in 16 Class A games last summer with a 5-2 record and 3.96 ERA. A product of the University of South Carolina, he's noted for an outstanding curveball.
What they're saying: "I had a dead frog in my room for three or four days. The housekeeping never got rid of it. I don't know what's on that thing, I'm not touching it." -- Moustakas on his hotel stay in Cuba
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.