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Mike Moustakas to Reds - Fantasy Impact

At the start of December, the Cincinnati Reds signed All-Star infielder Mike Moustakas to a four-year, $64 million contract. It serves as the largest free-agent contract in Reds history. While it may be an overly rich deal for a 31-year-old power hitter, it was a necessary investment for a team that desperately needed to revamp their offense.

The Reds finished the 2019 season with a disappointing 75-87 record. Despite having the fourth-best team ERA in the National League last season, they also scored the fourth-fewest runs. Enter Moustakas, who is capable of remedying the team's offensive woes to a certain degree. He also plugs a sizable hole at second base with the departures of Scooter Gennett and Jose Peraza.

So how impactful can Moustakous be with his new team, and what does his presence mean for his fantasy-relevant teammates? Taking a closer look at some of his advanced metrics may give us the answer.

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A Steady Slugger

Moustakas came up through the Kansas City Royals system after being drafted second overall by the team in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft. He always possessed power as a prospect, but there were some initial concerns about his contact capabilities in the big leagues.

Fast forward to the present, and Moustakas has been an All-Star in three of the past five seasons. Over the past three years, he has produced a slash line of .259/.319/.498 to go along with an average of 33 home runs and 89 RBI per season. In 2019, he continued his consistent production with the Milwaukee Brewers by slashing .254/.329/.516 with 35 home runs, 87 RBI, and a career-high 53 walks. He also posted a career-high in OPS with a .845 rating.

On the other hand, his 16.8% strikeout rate in 2019 was a full percent higher than his career average, although it was still a top-40 mark among players with over 502 plate appearances. Aside from that, despite the impressive home run total, many of Moustakas' underlying stats are surprisingly underwhelming. Regarding Statcast, Moustakas failed to rank in the top-60 among qualified hitters in xwOBA (84th), xBA (144th), Brls/PA% (67th), average exit velocity (162nd), and hard-hit% (144th). While those figures may cause fantasy managers some concern, it helps to know that Moustakas has never been an analytics darling in his career, even in his All-Star seasons.

The move to the Great American Ballpark in Cinncinati will also help improve Moustakas' numbers. In each of the past three years, when looking at park-adjusted metrics, Cinncinati's stadium has been more favorable to hitters in home-run factors than Miller Park in Milwaukee. In fact, since 2003, more home runs have been hit at the Great American Ballpark than any other MLB diamond. The Reds expect Moustakas to produce runs with his powerful swing, and his home stadium will help him achieve that. Barring injury, a return to the 35-homer plateau is well within reach.


Revamped Reds Offense

Moustakas' arrival instantly helps legitimize the Reds offense by giving them another power bat in the middle of their lineup. Last season, until star rookie Aristides Aquino arrived on the scene, it seemed like Eugenio Suarez was single-handedly supporting the Reds offense every night. Suarez, who belted 49 homers in 2019, ended up driving in 14.7% of the Reds 701 runs. As for Aquino, the young slugger shockingly swatted 19 home runs in 56 games, although he endured a few lengthy slumps once opposing pitchers started to catch on to his tendencies.

Nevertheless, a three-headed monster of Suarez-Moustakas-Aquino is one of the most intimidating trios in all of baseball. Ahead of them, the speedy Nick Senzel will occupy the leadoff role while Joey Votto, who remains an on-base machine (.357 OBP in 2019), will likely bat second. Throw in some adequate production from Freddy Galvis and Jesse Winker at the bottom of the order, and it looks like the Reds will have a much-improved lineup.

Aside from fantasy managers holding onto Josh VanMeter is deeper dynasty leagues, the early consensus seems to be that the addition of Moustakas benefits the entire lineup. Likewise, if the rest of the Reds live up to expectations, Moustakas should be able to reach his offensive averages with ease.


2020 Outlook

Currently, according to NFBC draft data, Moustakas is the 12th second baseman to come off of the board with an average draft position of 122.79. Two of last season's breakout second basemen, Jeff McNeil and Eduardo Escobar, rank just in front of the 31-year-old. Moustakas was ranked 11th among second baseman in 5x5 Roto league value last season, so his mid-tier draft position looks fair, especially when considering his dual positional eligibility at third base.

It would not be an extraordinary stretch to see Moustakas rank among the top-10 fantasy second baseman by season's end. He has been a consistent hitter for the better part of the past five years, and while he is starting to age, the move to Cincinnati looks beneficial in multiple ways. Additionally, in his career, he has averaged 650 plate appearances across a 162-game season. Moustakas only had 584 plate appearances in 2019, so even if he regresses slightly in 2020, an increased number of batting opportunities will make up for any downtick in his counting stats.

In summary, Moustakas is an excellent middle-round option for managers who prioritized speed early on in the draft or need to fill an infield hole. Even as he ages, Moustakas remains a starter in the majority of fantasy formats as he offers consistent production at a modest price. Playing every day in a hitter-friendly ballpark bodes well for Moustakas' fantasy stock heading into 202o.


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