KANSAS CITY -- Nattily attired in a dark suit, prize prospect Mike Moustakas walked through the Royals' dugout and stepped out onto the lush grass at Kauffman Stadium as Kansas City took batting practice before Friday's game against the White Sox.
It's a place Moustakas could get used to and likely will if he continues to build on a successful first full season in professional baseball. Playing for the Class A Burlington Bees in 2008, Moustakas came on strong after a slow April to hit .272 with 22 homers and 71 runs batted in. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft has adapted well after a position change to third base and wound up being selected as the Bees' Player of the Year.
The Royals welcomed all their organizational Pitcher and Player of the Year selections to Friday's game. The group includes Devon Lowery and Mitch Maier (Omaha); Dan Cortes and Kila Ka'aihue (Northwest Arkansas); Matt Kniginyzky and Derrick Robinson (Wilmington); Danny Duffy and Moustakas (Burlington, Ia.); Bryan Casey and Sean McCauley (Idaho Falls); Kelvin Herrera and Angel Franco (Burlington, N.C.), Michael Montgomery and Jose Bonilla (Surprise) and Willian Avinazar and Henry Moreno (Dominican).
For Moustakas, it's on to the instructional league before he heads home to Northridge, Calif., for a bit of rest and recuperation. The memories of '08 will generally be pleasant ones.
"I'm pretty pleased overall, but there's always stuff that I need to work on," Moustakas said. "I view my season as a good, solid season. But there's a lot of areas where I need to get better."
Moustakas said he has enjoyed the transition from shortstop to third base.
"I actually feel more comfortable at third than at shortstop," Moustakas said. "I've worked real hard over there. It has been a good experience."
The Royals found out something about Moustakas' mental toughness when he bounced back from a slow April in the cold Midwest weather.
"He rebounded well," said Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo. "Here was a Southern California kid in cold weather facing pitching that was better than he had ever seen before. He was chasing some bad pitches. But by the time he got to the middle of May, he was settling in pretty well. Then he had a tremendous second half. The plate discipline really improved from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."
Picollo said Moustakas, who just turned 20 on Sept. 11, will likely start 2009 at high Class A Wilmington.
"It's the natural step in the progression," Picollo said. "The Wilmington ballpark is big and the ball doesn't travel real well there. So, I think hitters go through a different type of maturity process there in that they learn to use all fields. The doubles should go up, the home runs might go down."
Moustakas is ready for whatever challenges come his way.
"The Minor Leagues have been what people told me," Moustakas said. "It can be a grind to get through the season, but I'm having the time of my life."
Robert Falkoff is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.