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The Debate: Give Me Moose Tacos Over Pedro At Third Base

Part Two of a two-part point/counterpoint piece where I argue that Mike Moustakas is a better long-term bet than Pedro Alvarez.

Jason Miller

To say that Mike Moustakas and Pedro Alvarez have some similarities would be an understating things quite drastically. Moose Tacos was the second pick of the 2007 draft; Alvarez was the second pick in 2008. They're both Scott Boras clients, although only Alvarez gained industry-wide hate for his agent's signing deadline chicanery. They were both top ten prospects and former minor league stars. Lastly, they're both players who came off of disappointing 2011 seasons, and saw some of their fantasy stock diminish because of it.

Moustakas was seen as Kansas City's third baseman of the future and was called up at midseason in 2011, and while he hit well down the stretch, he failed to show any of the power potential that was expected of him. Alvarez, meanwhile, followed up a promising rookie season by completely tanking in 2011, hitting .191 and earning a banishment to the minors at one point. Needless to say, they weren't exactly living up to the promise of their draft positions.

2012 was a tale of redemption for both players. Moustakas showed encouraging progress in the power department, as he knocked 20 home runs over the fence and saw his HR/FB% rise substantially. Alvarez, meanwhile, got his act together with the bat and clubbed 30 home runs, fifth among all third baseman. While the two players still have flaws to iron out, they're both back in the good graces of fantasy owners for next year's draft.

If you're looking for who to take first in your fantasy draft, I would go with Moustakas. Yes, I understand his low OBP and his lack of walks are concerning, but two major factors put him above Alvarez in my book. One, he's nearly two years younger, and thus is more likely to make improvements and have more room to develop before reaching his peak. Second, even with the low batting average (.242) and uninspiring OPS (.708), Moustakas improved his home run total while keeping his strikeouts at an acceptable level. He didn't get eaten alive by contact problems and his BABIP was a below average .274, so his batting average will very likely improve as his power continues to develop. Also, the subpar end numbers were the product of a miserable second half, which could have been attributable to fatigue due to playing in his first big league season.

Moustakas was a monster as a prospect in the minors. He chewed up AA and spit it out as a 21-year-old, then proceeded to do much the same thing when he was bumped up to AAA. Moustakas was projected by prospect hounds to combine 25-homer power with good contact skills and a good average. That he was able to hit for more power while not letting his strikeouts leave the realm of reason was, at age 23, encouraging. Also of note was that he didn't feature a significant platoon split, as he hit lefties just as well as righties.

Alvarez, meanwhile, hit his 30 bombs but was still a strikeout machine. Despite the overall improvement from his awful 2011, Alvarez still hasn't made any progress in his ability to make contact in three years in the majors. He'll be 26 next year, and you're likely looking at a reasonable model of what Alvarez truly is. He's a 30-35 homer-producing third baseman who will kill you in strikeouts and batting average. Unfortunately, that's what a number of scouts had him pegged at when he was coming up through the minors. That player has fantasy value, obviously, but having to take it in the chin in two categories is a high price to pay for power. Not to mention, Alvarez doesn't walk enough to really offset the low average.

Alvarez is probably going to have one year where he magically cuts down the strikeouts and hits for a decent average, a fluke year where he'll come close to being a true fantasy star. Think Nick Swisher's 2010 season, or Dave Kingman's 1979 year to offer one of my favorite examples. It'll be a fluke, but I'm sure it'll happen. The only problem is that I think Moustakas is destined to have several years at that level. Alvarez has more power than Moose. There's no denying that. However, Moustakas is a better all around hitter, and it's only a matter of time before he demonstrates that.

Winning a fantasy league often comes down to recognizing which players have the talent to break out and become stars, and drafting them for bargain prices. Moustakas has that kind of ability to fill up the offensive stat sheet, and he's a better bet to turn into a fantasy star than Alvarez, who I fear is going to turn into an all-or-nothing player who is only of marginal fantasy help.