Royals Mike Moustakas: Player to Watch Heading into 2017

Mike Moustakas had his 2016 season cut short due to an ACL injury. But, after a change in his approach and continued improvement, should fantasy owners be paying him more attention heading into 2017?

Mike Moustakas entered the league with a lot of hype as the Royals looked to him as their heir apparent at third base for the foreseeable future.  However, he did not quite live up to expectations his first three full seasons in the league, and many thought that he may never put it all together. But, a simple change in his approach has seemingly turned his career around.

After years of rolling over into the pronounced shift, Moustakas finally made the adjustment of going the other way in 2015. This not only helped him set a career high in AVG, but also allowed him to reach a career high mark of 22 HR as well. Unfortunately, a torn ACL would derail what would have been his follow-up season in 2016, and many fantasy owners have seemingly forgotten about him.

But, astute owners will take advantage of the widespread overlooking. He only played in 27 games last season, but the key here is to look at certain batted ball areas and to see if he was showing the same type of improvement as he did in 2015. The first key area is the Oppo%. After years where that number would barely hover 20%, he upped it to 27% in 2015. Last season, he had that rate up to 31%.

His LD rate was 18%, the same as it was in 2015. In 2015 he also posted a great 49% Med contact rate, which was followed up a 42% performance last season. While the small sample size helps, he even posted a 38% Hard contact rate last season, a 7% increase from the year prior, and what would have been a career high if sustained over the course of the season.

Before getting hurt, his 7 HR in the month of April would have had him on pace to set a career high in HR last season. On pace measures can be misleading, but it is not too hard to see based on the level in which he was hitting the ball, that he was on his way to doing so.

Looking at his HR tracker, he averaged 404 ft. per HR in 2016. Now only 7 HR can bloat that number. But over his 24 HR output in 2015, he averaged a cool 405 ft. per homer. He was hitting the ball with the same level of force as well last season, so it serves as just another indicator that things are trending up.

The Royals are going to need Moustakas to be a force in the lineup next season if they intend of having a chance at competing. By the beginning of the 2017 season, he will be nearly eight months removed from surgery, so owners will need to make sure everything goes smoothly this spring.

This is a player that broke through in 2015 due to a change in his approach and was showing the same types of contact numbers that allowed him to set career high totals. He will get overlooked this spring because of the injury and the assumption he is a one year wonder. Take advantage of that mistake, and target him this spring.