Manny Ramirez is getting all the press, and Jason Bay can even make a case as the best player in the deal, but Thursday's blockbuster trade among the Red Sox, Dodgers and Pirates also yielded two players who will become major league regulars for the first time. New Pirates third baseman Andy LaRoche is a top prospect whom If You're Hardcore discussed in detail not long ago, but what of Brandon Moss?
The 24-year-old was an eighth-round pick in 2002 and has shown steady improvement as he's climbed the minor league ladder. His career totals stand at .287 BA/.357 OBP/.461 SLG. That line is as average as it sounds, and Moss is exactly that. A little power, a little speed, solid defensive skills and a respectable walk rate mark Moss as a typical fourth outfielder. In Pittsburgh, however, the left-handed Moss will start, at least against righties. He'll probably fall into a platoon with Jose Bautista, who is surrendering his third base job to Andy LaRoche.
The biggest hole in Moss' game is his contact rate. He's piled up the strikeouts throughout his career, and the gains he's made in other areas haven't quite been enough to offset that issue. Moss looks like a 15-20 home run hitter at best right now, and whether he can remain a regular long-term player depends on improving his power output. He was slugging .548 in Triple-A this season and is still young enough to develop more pop. Exposure to left-handed pitching will reduce his value, but if platooned, Moss should be able to avoid becoming a liability in batting average. Expect 450 at-bats in 2009, with a .270 average, a dozen home runs and the occasional stolen base.