Mailbag: Projecting Moustakas' debut

Mailbag: Butler could be Moustakas' blueprint

How long do you think it will take Mike Moustakas to make it to the big leagues?
-- Dave T., Kansas City.

Let's take another high school Draft selection, Billy Butler, as a guide. An outstanding hitter, as is Moustakas, Butler took three-plus Minor League seasons to reach the Royals this year at age 21. Along the way Butler was tried at three positions, third base, first base and the outfield. When he arrived, basically because of Mike Sweeney's knee injury, Butler became the full-time designated hitter.

Although the Royals say that Moustakas will remain a shortstop, he'll have to be tested under professional conditions. So part of his progress will depend on what position he'll ultimately plays and how much he has to learn. Moustakas signed late, and although he's reported to Rookie level Idaho Falls, he's basically missed this summer's season. So, with three years in the Minors, that puts him at Kauffman Stadium in 2011.

What is former Royals outfielder Aaron Guiel doing now?
-- Krista M., Oakley, Calif.

Guiel has been playing for the Yakult Swallows in Tokyo and, at last report, had 24 home runs, 61 RBIs and a .262 average in 100 games.

I have thought for quite some time that the Royals are just one strong starting pitcher and one power hitter away from being contenders. Any chance these two glaring needs will be addressed in the near future?
-- Mark O., Canton, Ohio.

Rest assured that general manager Dayton Moore has pitching and power at the top of his to-do list along with hiring a manager. That's certain to occupy much of his time in the offseason.

Luke Hochevar has struggled for Triple-A Omaha and Double-A Wichita. Are the Royals really satisfied with his progress?
-- Bruce J., Lawrence, Kan.

Yes they are, according to J.J. Picollo, the Royals' director of player development. Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has improved his delivery and has become more consistent. His curveball is a lot sharper, and it has developed into a good pitch.

The Royals also worked to get Hochevar to land more on the ball of his foot, thereby giving him a better arm angle and putting more pitches down in the zone. Picollo says to look beyond the basic statistics (1-2, 6.23 ERA in seven Omaha starts through Sunday; 3-6, 4.69 ERA in 17 Wichita games). Hochevar is coming right along.

Are youngsters like Hochevar, Billy Buckner and Tyler Lumsden likely to be September callups?
-- Travis T., Kansas City.

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It's all unofficial so far, but Hochevar has a great chance because he's not only making progress but he's already on the 40-man roster. Buckner isn't on the 40-man, but he's getting serious consideration because of a 9-7 record and 3.82 ERA. Lumsden seems iffy because his ERA is 6.37 and he's issued a lot of walks.

I love Rowdy Hardy! Any chance he could make the big club next year?
-- Bryan A., Milwaukee.

Lenny Franklin "Rowdy" Hardy, 24 and left-handed, has made a lot of fans with his 14-4 record and 2.58 ERA for Class A Wilmington. He's one of those guys who doesn't throw hard but hits his spots and gets people out. Hardy throws a fastball, a breaking pitch (halfway between a curve and a slider) and a changeup. He'll throw any pitch at any time on any count.

At last count, Hardy had 84 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 150 innings. Piccolo says the Royals will keep moving Hardy up the line until the hitters tell them different. Double-A, not the Majors, is the likely next stop for the Bethel Springs, Tenn., resident.

Is Mike Stodolka considered a Major League prospect?
-- Steve D., Independence, Mo.

Stodolka is kind of a mini-version of the Rick Ankiel's story with the St. Louis Cardinals. A left-handed pitcher drafted by the Royals in the first round of the 2000 First-Year Player Draft, Stodolka had elbow problems and underwent Tommy John elbow ligament transplant surgery.

Last year, he switched to first base and did well for Class A High Desert (.284, 11 home runs, 67 RBIs). Moving up to Double-A Wichita this year, Stodolka continued to make believers of the Royals. In 100 games, his average was .293 and he had 12 homers and 53 RBIs.

Not only that, but as Piccolo noted, Stodolka was voted the best-fielding first baseman in the Texas League. Though he probably won't be a big-time home-run hitter, Stodolka is viewed as a "Ross Gload-type" performer by Piccolo. One thing, though: Stodolka can become a Minor League free agent this winter.

Dick Kaegel is reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.