Would you believe that signing Dylan Moore was the first move the Mariners made this offseason? Barely a week after the conclusion of the World Series, Seattle signed the 26-year-old to a Major League contract, despite Moore having never reached the Majors. Signing career minors players to Major League deals isn’t unheard of - in fact, a week later the club signed fellow career farmhand Ruben Alaniz to a big league contract - but it’s enough of a rarity to warrant special mention, and suggests the club sees something in Moore that others haven’t.
Drafted out of the University of Central Florida in the seventh round in 2015 by the Rangers, Moore lit up the lower minors in his first two years of pro ball, showing impressive base stealing ability, solid plate discipline, and surprising power. Shortly after his first promotion to High-A - and in the middle of a 177 wRC+ rampage - he was shipped to the Braves for what Baseball Savant calls “Other Considerations”. He immediately made a good impression with his new org, finishing out the 2016 season with 41 plate appearances of 144 wRC+ ball with the Carolina Mudcats.
For his efforts, Moore was rewarded with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, and played quite well there, slashing .317/.378/.537 over 45 turns at bat.
Unfortunately, 2017 was a challenge for Moore, as he stumbled in his first taste of Double-A. Working to just a 71 wRC+ over almost 500 plate appearances, his power mysteriously vanished, as he put up a .086 ISO, the first time in his career he failed to crack triple digits. Although his strikeouts and walks stayed in check, his batted ball profile was unsightly, with a pop-up rate of over 20% contributing to a massively deflated HR/FB. Moore did make a couple cameos in big league spring training for the Braves, but was cut midway through, and latched on with the Brewers at the start of April.
In a second crack at Double-A, he tore the cover off the ball to kick off 2018. His power roared back, ripping thirteen extra-base hits in only 91 plate appearances en route to a wRC+ just a hair under 200 (!). Milwaukee aggressively promoted him to Triple-A on May 3rd, and he finished out the year there, slashing .280/.346/.492 over 363 plate appearances, with a relatively normal .303 BABIP suggesting he wasn’t just getting lucky. His strong base stealing continued, going a combined 23-for-30, and the .212 ISO showed that his power was firmly back.
Moore has played all over the infield throughout his career, and has started at least one game at every non-battery position. He split most of his time last season at second and third, with just sporadic starts at the other infield spots and a few games hanging out in the outfield. He was the Mississippi Braves’ starting shortstop in 2017, though, and is unlikely to be a liability, but his decreased deployment there suggests his glove there isn’t fantastic.
With J.P. Crawford and Tim Beckham in the fold, Moore’s path to the big leagues looks a little murky. He certainly has a higher ceiling than say, Kristopher Negrón, and there’s a reasonable chance he’ll travel with the club to Japan, but it makes plenty of sense to stash him in Tacoma given all of his Minor League options. His versatility, sneaky power, and smart base stealing make him a very attractive depth piece, and he would almost certainly be the first one up should anything happen to any Mariner infielder.