By Paul Thompson
May 27, 2016
KANSAS CITY, Missouri – Can one play really submarine an entire season? Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon put that idea to the test on Sunday, May 22, when they combined for a nasty collision in foul territory while chasing a fly ball hit by, of all people, former Royal Melky Cabrera.
It was bad enough when Gordon was placed on the disabled list early this week with a broken bone in his hand. With an expected return in roughly a month, though, the diagnosis almost felt like a relief. On Thursday, May 26, the other shoe dropped: Mike Moustakas was placed on the disabled list with a torn ACL and is expected to miss the rest of the year. When it rains, it pours; and we all know how it’s been raining in Kansas City over the past week.
The Moustakas injury is particularly demoralizing, considering his breakout 2015 season (.284/.348/.470 slash line with 22 home runs and 34 doubles) and the resulting high hopes for 2016. Even now, despite playing in just 27 of Kansas City’s 46 games this season, Moustakas is tied for second on the team with seven home runs. Thanks to a fluke injury, the 27-year-old Moustakas (and the Royals) will be forced to miss out on a prime year of production. His power will be sorely missed.
After two seasons of relative calm on the injury front, the Royals have been beset by the injury bug in 2016. Moustakas and Gordon join injured starters Chris Young, Kris Medlen, and Mike Minor on the shelf. If, like me, you’re searching for a ray of sunshine amid the dark and ominous storm clouds hovering over the city, the closest I’ve found is this: the injuries to Gordon and Moustakas open a window of opportunities for veteran farmhands Cheslor Cuthbert and Brett Eibner.
Cuthbert is a 23-year-old third baseman by trade who has been inconsistent but promising over his seven minor league seasons. Eibner is a 27-year-old outfielder whose underwhelming start to his minor-league career has now been overshadowed by two consecutive seasons worth of star turns at Triple-A Omaha. You might even recall that Eibner’s resurgence got me so excited that I advocated for his promotion over Paulo Orlando last week, a take almost as scorching as Orlando’s bat* since the column was posted.
To be fair, Eibner has also been on fire since the post, albeit in Triple-A. He smacked 10 home runs in just 149 at-bats in Omaha, and had already drawn 27 walks at the time of his promotion (for comparison, Eibner walked only 38 times in 2015 despite registering 389 at-bats). He’s a legitimately interesting player who gets on base at a 40% clip and plays stellar outfield defense. There’s a real chance he could help this team, and I don’t just say that as a thinly-veiled attempt to save face.
After a pair of largely dream-like seasons, the Royals will now get an opportunity to test their resiliency. If one or both of their young prospects can seize the chance, the team will be much better off for it long-term. That’s at least something, right?
*In that May 17 piece, I posited that either Orlando or Jarrod Dyson should be replaced in favor of Eibner. After taking Dyson to task I moved on to Orlando, proclaiming that he “…hasn’t been much better, posting a batting average-aided .653 OPS with two extra base hits, one RBI, and zero walks while striking out 13 times in 47 at-bats.” In related news, Orlando went 3-4 with a home run and 4 RBI on the day that piece was published. In fact, in the seven games the Royals have played since the woebegone piece was published, Orlando has recorded five multi-hit games. He’s riding a nine-game hitting streak overall, and has gone 15-26 at the plate with nine RBI and five extra base hits since. Hey, nobody’s perfect.