Fantasy Baseball Reaction: Mike Moustakas signing shakes up the Brewers infield
Signing with the Brewers seems like good news for Mike Moustakas, but Scott White says it's not so simple, especially given the potential impact on Travis Shaw, Jesus Aguilar and Keston Hiura.
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On the one hand, we should already know how this story plays out.
Mike Moustakas is joining the Brewers, just like he did at the trade deadline last season. So presumably, it means a hitter with a swing geared for homers gets to try his hand at a hitter's park we see a lot more of Travis Shaw at second base.
On the other hand, things weren't so straightforward even last year.
Part of the problem was Jonathan Schoop was also in the picture. He's with the Twins now, so no issues there. Another part of the problem, though, was the Brewers' seeming discomfort with Shaw at second base, a position he hadn't previously played in either the majors or minors. The sample size is too small for defensive metrics to mean much, but they're less than inspiring. And sure enough, he made only two-thirds of the starts there last September.
That's no path to mixed-league relevance. And for a player with consecutive 30-homer seasons, plus on-base skills and underlying numbers that suggest he was the victim of a bad-luck batting average last year, it'd be a real shame if he lost it.
To that end, the Brewers plan to try Moustakas himself at second base this time.
"This is what spring training is for," manager Craig Counsell said. "We're definitely going to look at players at different positions, and this one is a plan that we had eight months ago that we can do right now, and have some time to do."
It may be a long shot. Moustakas isn't exactly know for his range at the hot corner — range that will become even more necessary at second base. But he was drafted as a shortstop back in 2007, giving him more middle infield experience than Shaw has.
If Moustakas can't hack it, Shaw may end up being the primary third baseman still. He did make occasional starts at third base after the Moustakas signing last year. And Moustakas, it's worth noting, didn't take to the new hitter's environment quite as hoped. He hit six homers in 91 at-bats there, which is good enough, but his slugging percentage during his time with the Brewers was actually lower (.441) than during his time with the Royals (.468). Add these newfound playing time concerns, and I see no reason to upgrade him from 18th in my third base rankings. I'll have to think long and hard about whether I really prefer him to Rafael Devers, to be honest.
Either Shaw or Moustakas would be a major liability at second base, though, requiring frequent interference from Hernan Perez, Tyler Saladino and Cory Spangenberg with the possibility of a timeshare at third base. It's most worrisome for Shaw, who's currently ranked in the top 12 at both second and third base, but it could potentially disrupt the entire infield.
Let's not assume Jesus Aguilar is getting off scot-free. His season-long numbers were the best of this group last year, but he entered 2018 as a platoon bat and wound up hitting just .245 with a .760 OPS in the second half. His batted-ball profile suggests he's better than that, but a slow start could get him phased out pretty quickly. Maybe it even puts him in a lefty-righty platoon with Moustakas, with Shaw bouncing back and forth. Who knows? So many options are on the table now, which is a big reason why the Brewers made this move. But Fantasy owners don't want options. They want assurances.
Murky enough for you? Well, let's further muddy the waters. Yes, right now, Perez, Saladino and Cory Spangenberg are Moustakas' only threats at second base, but the top prospect in the Brewers system just so happens to play second base. Keston Hiura was thought to have one of the most major league-ready bats when the Brewers selected him ninth overall in 2017, and he overcame elbow troubles to put up solid numbers between high Class A and Double-A last year.
He's expected to reach the majors at some point this season, and if it's not an injury that brings him up, he's another threat to each of these players' playing time. He is my.
It's a mess, frankly. If I was ranking whose stock is down the most with this signing, I'd go Moustakas first, Shaw second and Aguilar third. But I would hesitate before taking any of the three now.
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