Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Should Fantasy Owners Be Targeting Mike Moustakas or Lance Berkman?

Mike Moustakas – Kansas City Royals – Third Baseman
For a long time we heard about the promise of Mike Moustakas, after he slugged 36 HR with 124 RBI between Double and Triple-A in 2010. However, since getting his opportunity to man the hot corner in Kansas City the results haven’t been there. Sure, he has hit 29 HR in 1,011 AB (through Sunday), but it has come courtesy of a .245 average.

The 2013 season has been especially poor, as he is hitting .209 with 10 RBI. While he is not striking out (13.6% strikeout rate), there are two glaring issues:

1) He isn’t hitting the ball with authority.
Moustakas currently owns a 13.7% line drive rate, tied for the 12th worst among hitters who qualify for the batting title.

There is hope, as he was at 14.8% in the first half of 2012 only to improve to an 18.4% mark in the second half. Of course, he also had worse luck in the second half last season, so don’t take it as a given that an improved line drive rate will yield significantly better results.

2) He owns an incredibly high infield fly ball rate.
He currently sits at 19.6%, to be exact. It puts him as the 10th highest among those who qualify for the batting title and is similar to last seasons’s 17.6% mark. If you are popping the ball up on the infield, you just aren’t going to do much damage.

Moustakas can’t correct one issue without the other and expect significantly better results. He needs to improve both marks if he is going to excel and, thus far, he has given us no indication that he can do so. Last year his infield fly ball rate actually rose in the second half (16.8% to 17.6%). When coupled with an overall fly ball rate of 49.3% it is no surprise he owned a second half BABIP of .252 and average of .211.

That’s not to say that he can’t turn it around, but time is clearly running out. If you can stash him the potential rewards are there, otherwise he is far from an ideal buy candidate.

Lance Berkman – Texas Rangers – Designated Hitter
Berkman is actually in a surprisingly similar situation to Moustakas, where he hasn’t hit the ball hard (12.9% line drive rate) and has been popping the ball up a lot (19.4% infield fly ball rate).

The difference? He has managed a .341 BABIP and has a track record of success. Of course that means nothing and it wasn’t long ago that people were prepared to write him off. In fact, Berkman’s infield fly ball rate was an issue in his short time playing in 2012 (23.8%) and his power was also down (9.5% HR/FB, compared to this year’s 8.3%).

While Berkman has gotten on base via the walk, that’s not why owners took the gamble on him. Luckily the investment wasn’t a big one and unless things change it is hard to magine him maintaining his current .298 average.

It’s not impossible that he has reached the end of the road, so selling him while you can makes a lot of sense.

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