Given the chance to excel, Moss making an impact
The Oakland Athletics have made it to the American League Division Series with two left-handed power hitters that at one time were the property of the Boston Red Sox.
Red Sox Nation need not be reminded of Josh Reddick and Brandon Moss, two of Oakland's sluggers that have helped the Athletics surprise this season.
Both were used sparingly and had relatively limited opportunities with Boston. Reddick was just beginning to see more playing time for the Red Sox when he was traded this past offseason for Oakland closer Andrew Bailey.
The left-handed-hitting Moss, now 29 years old, was traded by Boston in a three team 2008 deal that included the Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers. The component players of the trade were Manny Ramirez, who went to the Dodgers and Jason Bay, who went from Pittsburgh to the Red Sox. The Pirates ended up with Bryan Morris, Craig Hanson, Andy LaRoche and Moss.
In November 2010, Moss was granted free agency by the Pirates. He had played sparingly in parts of three seasons for them.
Also in November 2010 Moss was signed as a free agent by Philadelphia, where he appeared in only five games for the Phillies.
Then in December 2011, Moss found himself a free agent once again. This time he signed with the Oakland A's, where he is currently enjoying great success.
Frankly, I have always been surprised a Major League organization has not given Brandon Moss a longer look against quality pitching.
In his Minor League career with Boston, covering parts of seven seasons, he had seasons at Double-A Portland and at Triple-A Pawtucket that were highly respectable and very encouraging. However, the Red Sox rosters were loaded with quality players and like Reddick more recently, there just wasn't room for Moss to play.
Moss played two seasons at Triple-A for Boston. He had identical .282 batting averages in both 2007 and 2008. He hit 16 homers in 2007, when he went to the plate 559 times. He did strike out a lot -- 148 times to be exact. That is one of the issues Moss is still working hard to correct.
Prior to being included in the big three-team trade in 2008, and after being promoted to the Major League club, Moss was hitting .295 in 86 plate appearances for the Red Sox. However, when he got to Pittsburgh, he hit just .222.
In short, while Brandon Moss had shown an ability to hit for a high average and flashed power as a Minor League player, the results were not the same at the Major League level.
He only got six plate appearances in his year with the Phillies. He failed to get a hit. So when the Phillies declared him a free agent once again, Moss moved to Oakland.
Now he is flourishing with a Major League club. In 296 plate appearances with Oakland, Moss hit .291 with 21 home runs and 52 runs batted in parts of this past season.
What has changed? Not much. His swing is a bit shorter and a bit more compact than when I saw him in Minor League baseball. But his mechanics have always been good. He looks relaxed and confident. He knows enough to take a pass on pitches he feels can't drive successfully.
He's a good hitter. Like Reddick, he just needed a sustained opportunity to play. His team believes in him.
Moss gets most of his at-bats against right-handed pitchers. His splits are fascinating. This season against all right-handers, Moss is hitting .290 with 19 home runs and 44 RBIs in 234 plate appearances. Against all left-handed pitching, Moss is hitting a very credible .293 with two homers and eight RBIs. But the sample size is much lower against lefties at only 62 plate appearances.
Perhaps the statistic I feel is the most important of all Moss' 2012 accomplishments is his success hitting with runners in scoring position. In 76 at-bats, he has a .289 batting average with five home runs and 29 runs batted in. He can be counted on in the clutch.
I also believe Moss to be much more mature both physically and from an experience standpoint than during his previous Major League trials.
At six foot and 210 pounds, Moss is not huge by Major League height and weight standards. He isn't a massive target at first base. But he's a very capable defender at first base and in the outfield. In fact, I believe him to be a top quality outfielder with good instincts, good range and a strong and accurate arm. He's equally proficient at first base. Teams need not be concerned about playing Moss on defense.
Moss came to life while playing earlier this season for Oakland's Triple-A Sacramento team in the Pacific Coast League.
Scouts, myself included, are fond of saying the Pacific Coast League is a hitter's paradise. In reality, there are a couple of league ballparks that make that statement questionable. One is Sacramento. It is difficult to get the ball to carry in Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats.
Moss hit 15 homers there in 224 plate appearances before being recalled to the Athletics. He also had 11 doubles and a triple. His Sacramento experience may have solidified his future as the type of hitter to be trusted on a Major League roster.
In parts of 10 seasons in the Minors, Brandon Moss has a composite .283 batting average covering 4,131 plate appearances in 994 games played. He has paid his dues. Now he is contributing on a winning big league club.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.