3:58pm: Moustakas is indeed out for the season, manager Ned Yost confirmed to reporters, including Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link).
3:17pm: The Royals announced today (via Twitter) that third baseman Mike Moustakas has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Outfielder Brett Eibner has been recalled from Triple-A Omaha to take his spot on the 25-man roster. Kansas City did not give a timeline for Moustakas’ return, but certainly a tear of his ACL would seem to put the remainder of his 2016 season in jeopardy. Moustakas suffered the injury in a foul-territory collision with Alex Gordon this past weekend — a doubly devastating accident for the Royals, as it also resulted in a fractured wrist and a trip to the disabled list for Gordon.
The 27-year-old Moustakas, long hailed as one of baseball’s top prospects, struggled through the early stages of his career but had a full-fledged breakout in 2015 when he batted .284/.348/.470 with 22 home runs and excellent defense at the hot corner, helping to fuel the Royals’ second consecutive trip to the World Series as well as their eventual victory. The driving factor in his emergence as a star was a dramatic improvement against left-handed pitching; after hitting just .211/.267/.328 against lefties from 2011-14, Moustakas crushed same-handed pitching to the tune of a .282/.328/.482 batting line in 2015. This season, he’s been limited to 27 games due to a minor fracture in his left thumb but had maintained his production versus lefties and delivered a solid overall line of .240/.301/.500 with characteristically strong defense.
For the Royals, the in-house options at the hot corner are most likely highlighted by a combination of prospect Cheslor Cuthbert and utilityman Whit Merrifield — each of whom was recently added to the big league roster. Kansas City has also seen 2013 first-rounder Hunter Dozier, who had an abysmal 2015 campaign at Double-A, enjoy a terrific resurgence playing primarily third base at Triple-A. Dozier has batted .296/.324/.521 through 17 games this season after obliterating Double-A pitching at an even more impressive .301/.370/.590 pace in 26 games to open the season. Dozier, it should be noted, is not on the 40-man roster, though if it’s determined that Moustakas will indeed miss the season, a spot could be opened simply by transferring him to the 60-day disabled list. Also of note is that early June is typically looked at as the threshold to safely avoid Super Two designation for well-regarded minor leaguers, so there’s some degree of financial incentive for Kansas City to keep Dozier at the minor league level a bit longer.
Alternatively, shifting Omar Infante across the diamond (though he’s struggled with the bat since signing in Kansas City) could be an option. Infante does have more than 600 career innings at third base, although he hasn’t seen any time at the position since 2012. Given that contingency of internal replacement candidates, it seems likely that the reigning World Series Champions will at least take some time to evaluate existing alternatives before looking outside the organization to acquire some help at the hot corner.