Prospect Showdown: Mike Moustakas vs. Brett Wallace
Tale of the Tape:
Age: Wallace, 23, turns 24 on August 26th. Moustakas, 21, turns 22 on September 11th.
Height/Weight: (listed), Wallace, 6′1″, 245. Moustakas 6′0″, 195.
Bats/Throws: Both players are lefty, righty.
Position(s): Wallace was a third baseman in college and his first two seasons as a professional. He has since been moved to first base. Moustakas was a high school shortstop who was moved to third base after being drafted, where he remains.
Wallace: Two time PAC 10 Triple Crown winner while at Arizona State, first round pick (13th overall) of the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2008 draft. Career .305/28/99 numbers in 192 minor league games heading into 2010 season.
Moustakas: California High School Player of the Year in 2007, first round pick (second overall) of the Kansas City Royals in the 2007 draft. Career .262/38/168 in 266 minor league games as of 2009 season.
Wallace has a solid, well balanced set-up which allows for a level swing regardless of where the pitch is in the strikezone. He recognizes pitches well and trusts his hands enough to make adjustments during the swing without losing effectiveness. Wallace has a stocky build with a low center which prevents him from getting on top of the ball and creating the top spin necessary to be a consistent homerun threat. Wallace has an inside out swing (leads with his hands) which allows him to use the whole field, but will also leave him susceptible to pitches on the inside half.
Moustakas, like Wallace, has a low center, but doesn’t rely on his hands as much so he should hit more homers in the majors. He is advanced for his age in his ability to recognize situations and set up pitchers to his advantage. He probably won’t be a high walk guy but won’t strike out much either. He sometimes leads too early in his stride and if he guesses wrong can look bad but seems to have found a solution as he led the Midwest League in all Triple Crown categories before his call up to Triple A shortly after the All-Star break.
Moustakas gets the edge here because, as a former shortstop, he has the hands and footwork to handle third base. He lost some weight during the off-season which has helped his agility and lateral movement. Wallace is bigger which makes it more difficult to move around, he’s been described as “stiff” and “fixed.” Wallace has no trouble making the play on balls he gets to, but his range is below average and he doesn’t have the arm to compensate.
Neither player runs well, they have 19 career stolen bases between them in over 400 career minor league games, with Moustakas having 18 of them. If Moustakas keeps his weight under control he could be at least an average major league third baseman, if not, he has the arm strength to handle a corner outfield spot. Even if Wallace can stay on top of his weight he is lacking in other areas making his recent move to first base a permanent one.
Both players are “bad body” guys who will have to work alot harder than most of their teammates to stay in shape. A serious lower body injury to either of them could be a career ender. At the time of their respective drafting it was the consensus both of them, specifically Wallace, could eventually win a batting title. It seems more likely now that won’t be the case, although they should both be close to the .300 mark with alot of doubles but with fewer homers than projected, low to mid 20’s would be reasonable totals for both players. Moustakas will strike out more but also walk more.
It concerns me Wallace has been traded three times since being drafted, including the last two by organizations with a poor record of developing players and in need of the type of bat potential Wallace has. Now that he is in a weak division and a hitters park, Wallace’s numbers may surpass Moustakas’, at least initially, but they should be taken to being more park affect than ability.
The Royals have a slew of up and coming young players with high offensive ceilings which alleviates Moustakas from having to be an offensive savior right out of the gate. He can progress naturally and simultaneously with his teammates without the pressure he would face alone. Which is exactly the spot Wallace finds himself in. Houston’s lineup is devoid of any offensive threat, save Hunter Pence, and have no one in the minor leagues with Wallace’s potential, which will force him into the middle of the lineup far earlier than he would, or should, be.
I see both players having relatively short careers, probably not much more than twelve years or so. Depending on how they adjust and what their performance levels have been, they easily could add three or four years to that amount as a designated hitter. I don’t foresee either being an All-Star caliber player, although Wallace may be “gifted” an appearance or two just because of the overall lack of quality players in Houston’s systems.
Given the choice between the two, I would take Moustakas just because of his athleticism and versatility.