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Brandon Moss: Proven slugger and reclamation project

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After the St. Louis Cardinals completed the trade that sent pitching prospect Rob Kaminsky to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for slugging first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss, the question wasn't if Moss would be starting for the Cards but how soon. Cleveland was in California for a series in Oakland, which meant Moss had to fly halfway across the country to suit up for the Cardinals. Moss made it to Busch Stadium for that night's first pitch but not soon enough for him to be in the starting lineup. His debut in the bird on the bat was as a pinch-hitter.

Like many, I assumed the Cardinals had acquired a replacement for Mark Reynolds in the role of primary first baseman even though Moss had hit a bit worse than Reynolds over the course of the 2015 season. The Cards had bet on Moss hitting better than Reynolds moving forward. Moss would supplant Reynolds, taking the majority of the at-bats at first.

Management's comments upon the announcement of the trade seemed to reflect this. Per Jenifer Langosch at MLB.com:

"He's a big production guy in a time in baseball where production is low," manager Mike Matheny said. "The guy obviously has power and the ability to drive in runs. Both of those we're not afraid to add."

Moss, for his part, was not openly taking a starting job for granted. From Derrick Goold's St. Louis Post-Dispatch article after the trade and Moss's pinch-hit debut:

"I really can’t put into words how happy I am to be a part of this team," Moss said after the Cardinals’ 9-8 win against Colorado. "Use me however you want to use me. However you see fit. If you want to platoon me, platoon me. If you want to pinch-hit me, pinch-hit me. If you want to play me, play me."

One wonders if Moss conveyed the same to Matheny because the manager has opted to split time between him and Reynolds. A comparison of playing time is a bit tricky what with the circumstances of Moss's Cardinals debut. He arrived a bit too late to start and consequently Matheny used him as a pinch-hitter. So we'll exclude that July 30 game. Here's how the player's totals compare:

  • Games: Reynolds, 12; Moss, 11
  • Plate Appearances: Reynolds 29; Moss, 35
First base has been a Reynolds-Moss time share.

To be sure, Moss hasn't done much at the bat to force Matheny to pencil his name onto the St. Louis lineup card. Since the trade, Moss is batting .156/.229/.188. As Moss's .032 Isolated Power (ISO) reflects, the thump general manager John Mozeliak hoped to add has been nonexistent. Reynolds, on the other hand, has hit well from July 31 through August 16: .286/.310/.500. And so it appears that Matheny is opting to go with the hot hand—meaning Reynolds is playing over the slugger the organization gave up Kaminsky to get.

In a Post-Dispatch article that you should read in its entirety because of how forthright Moss was with Goold, the first baseman shared the following:

"I was very forthcoming with the fact that since the hip surgery it’s been a battle every single day to be consistent mechanically just because of the habits I got into last year," Moss said. "Some days I’ll come in and it will click right away. I’ll be able to do the things I need to do. And some days I’ll just feel out of position and it reverts back to what I was doing. … I’m tired of coming in everyday and saying, ‘I’m going to compete. I’m going to battle.’ I need to figure out a way to compete and come in everyday and be the same."

****

"I’ve always said I’m going to strike out and I will," Moss said. "But there’s striking out being aggressive and trying to do something and there’s striking out being passive and defensive on first pitch, and that’s what I’ve been. It’s not fear. You get to a point where you’re just tired of it.

"The power is still there," Moss continued. "It’s just a matter of taking consistent swings and meeting the ball. That’s not what I’m doing. I’m missing pitches. The bat speed is there. The power is there. But I foul off a lot of pitches being in a bad position. That’s really the tale of the season right there. If you miss the pitches you’re supposed to hit and you get into two-strike counts it’s not going to go well. It’s just not."

Matheny thus appears willing to give Moss time. With Reynolds hitting, there's no reason to rush him. The proven veteran slugger the club framed as their trade deadline offensive upgrade is perhaps more of a work in progress than one would hope. Hopefully Moss can find his swing before October.

FanDuel

SBN and FanDuel have entered an exclusive partnership with respect to daily fantasy baseball this season. The Braves' offense is bad. Petco Park is unfriendly to offense. That's where Atlanta plays tonight. I like Colin Rea, in all his meh-ness, as a value play against Atlanta. You can play FanDuel here.