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Tyler Moore looks like the odd man out when Ryan Zimmerman returns

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In 2012, Tyler Moore looked like he might be a promising piece of the Nats future roster. Three years and 360 big league plate appearances later, Moore has yet to prove that he even deserves a spot on the Nationals bench.

Tyler Moore is running out of chances.
Tyler Moore is running out of chances.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Moore burst onto the scene in 2012 as the Nats best bat off the bench.  The former sixteenth round pick never really had much of a prospect pedigree, but he was certainly an overachiever during his time in the minor leagues.  Moore had hit .270 with 62 homers and 202 RBI between A+ and AA ball the previous two seasons and got off to a tremendous start in Syracuse that season.  He was off to a .307/.374/.653 start with 9 HR in just 29 games for the Chiefs that season before getting the call.  The then 25-year-old rookie proceeded to hit .263/.327/.513 with 10 HR in 171 plate appearances for the Nats that season.

After the Nationals dealt Michael Morse away in the offseason and Bryce Harper injured his knee in 2013, Moore got a shot at some extended playing time early in his second season.  He seemed to get exposed by big league pitching in his second time through the league, batting just .222/.260/.347 and striking out 58 times in just 178 plate appearances (32.6%).  His poor play while he had that extended shot earned him a trip back to Syracuse when Harper returned to the lineup, where Moore looked like his old self (.318/.395/.584 with 10 HR in 200 PA).

In 2014, Moore was an up and down guy, batting poorly in the majors (.231/.300/.385) and looking less impressive in AAA than he had in previous stints (.265/.367/.434).  He came to camp in 2015 without any minor league options remaining.  A decent Spring Training, along with a litany of injuries to the Nats starters, meant that the Nats carried Moore north rather than risk losing him on waivers to begin the year.

Alas, 2015 has looked an awful lot like 2013 and 2014 did at the big league level for Moore.  Perhaps that's not quite accurate... He's actually been worse than he was in those two seasons.  Moore entered play on Tuesday night with a .184/.232/.382 line, good (?) for a 58 wRC+ and a .256 wOBA.  Essentially, the league adjusted to Moore at some point early in his second season.  In three years since pitchers adjusted to him, Moore hasn't really shown that he's figured out a way to counter what they're doing to get him out.

Defensively, Moore is limited to either playing first base or faking left field.  Both of those spots, along with his other role on the club (right-handed pinch hitter) are spots where teams hide poor defenders as long as they're playing guys that can... you know... hit!  Moore has hit 58% as well as the average major leaguer this season, which is down from 94% last year and 64% in 2013.

Depending upon how long Ryan Zimmerman's recovery takes, the Nats shouldn't really have to make a move to send anyone down for another two weeks or so.  Right now, Moore is joined on the bench by Jose Lobaton, Clint Robinson, Matt den Dekker, and Dan Uggla.

  • Lobaton is the backup catcher, so he's not going anywhere.
  • Thus far in 2015, Robinson has proven to be a better and left-handed version of Moore.  He hasn't displayed quite the power that Moore has, but he's flashed some pop, a better ability to hit for average, and can cover the same exact spots defensively that Moore does.
  • Uggla may be who battles Moore for that spot.  He's limited to faking second base defensively, but could probably handle first base in a pinch.  Uggla and Moore both strike out quite a bit and both have power.  Uggla does at least counter his massive strikeout rate with a high walk rate, which Moore hasn't shown he can do at the big league level.
  • Matt den Dekker has had a terrible season offensively at Syracuse, but he provides one thing that neither Moore nor Uggla do... a competent glove.  He probably won't hit, but the bar has been set pretty low by Moore.

The way that the Nats have handled the bench so far this season, den Dekker will probably be the guy who goes when Zimmerman returns to the lineup in a few weeks.  Unlike Moore, den Dekker has (and has already used it this season) a minor league option, so the Nats don't risk losing him by sending him to Syracuse.  Still, Moore has pretty much been a waste of a spot on the 25 man roster to this point.

It made sense to keep him early in the year.  They didn't know how well Robinson would play, so the extra bench spots that the injuries opened up gave the two a shot at an extended competition (Robinson has won).  If he'd caught fire and looked like the guy he was in 2012, it's possible that he would have driven his trade value up enough to get a decent low level prospect for him rather than a flat lottery ticket.  At this point, it's debatable whether the Nats could even get a lottery ticket for him.

Moore seems to have had enough chances.  In the next few weeks, the Nats figure to be faced with the decision of keeping a poor hitting outfielder who can play all three positions with a plus glove or a poor hitting first baseman who can try and play left field and a terrible glove.  It should be a pretty easy decision.

Let's not go all doom and gloom with today's post.  In honor of RUNZ, I give you something unique and amazing......