"He's got a great stroke," Washington Nationals' manager Davey Johnson told reporters during the Nats' postseason run. "He's short through the ball. He's got a great future."
"What he can do," the Nationals' General manager Mike Rizzo explained to 106.7 the FAN In D.C.'s Holden Kushner and Danny Rouhier last September, "Is he can roll the pole and he's got a great, quiet approach. He's country strong." They were talking about Tyler Moore, the Nationals' 26-year-old, '08 16th Round pick and 2010 Minor League Player of the Year. After he'd hit 31 HRs in back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011, FanGraphs.com's Marc Hulet wrote that though Moore wasn't on many lists of the Nationals' top prospects, it was, "... hard to argue with his power (.262 ISO rate in ’11) and he definitely deserves a shot in Washington."
Mr. Hulet's opinion was that the first baseman, who'd eventually be asked to play the outfield in D.C., would, "... end up as a platoon player or a right-handed bat off the bench," if he couldn't cut down on the strikeouts and improve his approach, "... but he definitely has value if he continues to slaughter southpaws at the big league level." Moore made his major league debut in late April last season, filling in where needed and coming off the bench, playing part time in the outfield and at first for the NL East champs. He didn't exactly "slaughter" left-handers in his rookie campaign, however, postings a .247/.307/.473 line in 101 PAs against LHPs, but he had a .286/.357/.571 line in 70 PAs vs RHP with five of his 10 home runs against right-handers and five against the lefties.
It was Moore's ability to succeed in a part-time role that impressed Davey Johnson. After going 3 for 19 in his first 12 games, Moore was sent back down to Triple-A Syracuse. He was called back up a few weeks later and was able to adjust to the situation quickly. "I think when he was here the first time and then he went back out and then he came back in," Davey Johnson told reporters during the season, "I think he learned from that experience and he's doing more things and staying prepared and he's much more aggressive when he goes up to pinch hit."
From early June through the end of his rookie campaign, Moore posted a .277/.349/.562 line with nine doubles, 10 HRs, 14 walks and 39 Ks over 63 games and 152 plate appearances. Amongst qualified rookies, Moore's .250 ISO was the second-highest in the NL, behind only Rockies' catcher Wilin Rosario's .260 ISO, though Moore had significantly less PAs than others in the top 5 in the NL. Of his teammates who had at least 100 PAs in 2012 Moore's .250 ISO was the highest, ahead of Adam LaRoche (.238 ISO) and Ian Desmond (.218 ISO).
Moore's rookie campaign convinced the Nationals he could perform at the major league level and made them more comfortable with the idea of trading Michael Morse, which they did in January. "They have very similar skill sets and to have two of them is almost redundant," Rizzo told reporters after sending Morse to Seattle. Morse was under team control for just one more season (2013), the Nationals thought they could get good value in return and as the Nats' GM explained, "We felt that we had an ample substitute in a more-controllable Tyler Moore."
Impressive as he is, he'll be coming off the bench again in 2013, helping out in the Nats' outfield and backing up at first should Adam LaRoche need a rest. Davey Johnson told ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Kevin Sheehan this winter his only concern when it comes to his bench players like Moore and 24-year-old infielder Steve Lombardozzi, was getting them the ABs they deserved. "I really like the depth that we have in the system," Johnson said, "the one problem we have coming in next year is we're going to be more of a set lineup and I've got guys that are going to be on the bench, Lombardozzi, Tyler Moore and [need] to get them more playing time."
In 30 games this Spring, Moore is 14 for 61 with three doubles, four home runs, eight walks and 20 Ks. The four home runs are tied for the Nats' lead (with Ryan Zimmerman who hit three on Wednesday, and Anthony Rendon, who hit four in 34 PAs before he left camp). Bill James has Moore getting 250 PAs in 2013, hitting 13 HRs, and he projects a .259/.315/.491 line for the second-year major leaguer. Davey Johnson will find Tyler Moore some ABs. The rest of the National League might want to hope the Nationals' starter remain healthy.
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