Texas League notebook

Former first-rounder Moustakas displays natural hitting ability

Mike Moustakas was the second overall pick in the 2007 Draft. (Northwest Arkansas Naturals)

By Todd Traub / Special to MLB.com | May 25, 2010 6:00 AM ET

Mike Moustakas has made up for lost time. Northwest Arkansas' slugging third baseman started his first Double-A season 12 days late because of an injury, then quickly charged to the top of the Texas League's major hitting categories.

Moustakas, a left-handed hitter, leads the league with a .390 average, 41 RBIs, 24 extra-base hits, a .476 on-base percentage, a .797 slugging percentage and 94 total bases -- all in just 31 games. He is tied with Arkansas' Paul McAnulty for the league lead in home runs with 12 and sits second in runs scored (32) behind teammate Johnny Giavotella.

After batting .250 with 16 home runs at Class A Advanced Wilmington last year, Moustakas -- taken No. 2 overall by Kansas City in the 2007 Draft -- looks reborn.

"It was definitely a great learning experience being able to struggle and having to battle through it," said Moustakas, whose Spring Training was extended because of a strained oblique muscle. "I was getting myself out a lot last year, chasing curveballs, just bad pitches to hit. I was trying to hit everything. And now I'm just a little more relaxed, getting good pitches to hit and not missing them right now."

Moustakas has been particularly potent of late, going 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs against Arkansas on Friday. He punished the Travelers again Saturday, belting a two-run, opposite-field homer in the first inning of a 19-4 victory, and backed that up with a two-run shot in the third inning Sunday.

In fact, Moustakas has had so much success against Arkansas that visiting manager Bobby Magallanes chose to walk him in the second and fourth innings Saturday.

"We have this computer system that has where guys are hitting the baseball, and he's squaring balls up on pitches out of the strike zone and in the strike zone," Magallanes said. "He's a special guy."

Arkansas' database is clearly no match for Moustakas, who is batting .500 with six home runs and 19 RBIs against the Travs. It helps he arrived on a team loaded with prospects, including Giavotella and speedy leadoff man Derrick Robinson. In fact, given the strength of the Naturals' entire lineup, it's no wonder Moustakas is driving in runs, and being driven in.

"Tim Smith is hitting seventh for us right now, and he hit .300 in this league last year," Moustakas said. "That's pretty incredible to have a guy hitting .300 last year hitting seventh, and he's doing well right now, so it's awesome. It's just a fun team to be on."

At 28-15, the Naturals hold a 4 1/2-game lead over Springfield in the Texas League North.

"Any time you can have a hitter of his magnitude in the middle of the lineup, you make a pitcher be a little more respectful," Northwest Arkansas manager Brian Poldberg said of Moustakas. "You're going to get guys in front of him and guys behind him more at-bats."

Individual glory and big league money await Moustakas, who signed out of Chatsworth High School in California for a $4 million bonus, but he also holds dear the idea of playing for a winning team and forecasts a rosy future for a once-proud Royals franchise.

"You've just got to be able to plug the right group of players in there and we're going to figure it out eventually," Moustakas said. "We're going to have a pretty good team here coming up, especially with the talent we have down here in the Minor Leagues."

In brief

Back to back to back: Arkansas Travelers' Andrew Romine, Paul McAnulty and Ryan Mount hit consecutive home runs in the firth inning of Sunday's 11-10 victory over Northwest Arkansas. It marked the first time the Travelers have hit three consecutive homers since affiliating with the Los Angeles Angels before the 2001 season.

Long-duration lefty: Corpus Christi left-hander Douglas Arguello gave up one unearned run on four hits to beat Midland, 4-1, on Friday and earn his league-best second complete game. Thanks to his long outings, Arguello, 5-3 with a 2.45 ERA, is first in the Texas League with 58 2/3 innings pitched and tied for first with 49 strikeouts.

Numbers in excess: It only took Springfield five innings of a rain-shortened game to beat Arkansas, 13-2, on Wednesday. The Cardinals scored 10 runs in the fourth, when they sent 15 to the plate. Not to be outdone, Northwest Arkansas pounded Arkansas, 19-4, on Saturday and set records for the three-year-old franchise in runs, hits (22), extra-base hits (10) and margin of victory. "This is the longest lineup I've had in my three years," manager Brian Poldberg said of his prospect-laden team.

Todd Traub is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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