The Phillies have more than a couple of question marks as we enter 2017, and Brandon Moss may be the answer to three of them:
- Can Tommy Joseph continue his rookie success both at the plate and at first base during a full season?
- Where is the power on the bench?
- Who is the fourth outfielder?
Aside from being a good guy who just really wants to play baseball, Moss is an average player, with 1.4 fWAR in 464 plate appearances last season. He hit 28 home runs, and with the recent departure of Ryan Howard (and his 25 homers) from Philadelphia, the organization needs power. While Moss had a career-low .300 on-base percentage in 2016, his .484 slugging percentage was his highest since 2013. Even though Moss will strike out, his power has returned. He was the Cardinals’ eighth-best baserunner as a platoon player in 2016, but that is kind of like being the best pitcher in the Reds bullpen. (The bar is low.)
Tommy Joseph will most likely be the Phillies’ starting first baseman, as his 2016 numbers were impressive. Still, the Phillies may be looking for a platoon due to his small sample size (315 at-bats) and history of injury. Joseph only played 36 games due to a severe concussion in 2013. His 2014 season was delayed by another concussion and an injury to his wrist.
According to FanGraphs, Moss’s overall defensive metrics have improved significantly over the past four seasons:
He’s still in the negative, but Moss has improved significantly since getting more playing time at first base. Tommy Joseph’s Def score for the 2016 season is -6.0, so Brandon Moss would be an improvement.
One of the Phillies’ most recent re-signings is Andres Blanco. The one-year, $3 million price tag is likely less than what Brandon Moss would get. Philadelphia also traded for Howie Kendrick, another potential bench player who can platoon with César Hernández at 2nd base or play left field. Moss’s power outshines both of these bench candidates.
If the Phillies want to replace Howard’s 25 home runs, Moss is by far the best candidate. He had 20 more home runs than Kendrick in 23 fewer plate appearances. Moss also offers the best power off the bench. His ISO is more than double Kendrick’s, and is 100 points higher than Blanco’s. Moss is the type of player who can change the tone of a game with one swing of the bat off the bench.
The outfield & prospects
The Phillies have a couple of outfield prospects on the verge of breaking through to the majors. Nick Williams has stolen at least 30 bases the past three seasons, but “maturity” is a lingering issue. Roman Quinn may get called up again in 2017, and A.J. Ellis has high praise for him, saying, “I’m still waiting for a tool [Quinn] doesn’t have.” However, Quinn’s career has been delayed by injuries multiple times, including an oblique strain, broken wrist, torn Achilles, and a torn hip flexor.
If there is a trade, a callup, or an injury, the Phillies need a utility player able to step up and fill the gap. Moss is that player. He played most games at first base (68), but spent significant time in both left field (58 games) and right field (21 games) with the Cardinals in 2016. While waiting for those prospects to get to the majors, Moss is a great option for a fourth outfielder.
Moss can platoon at any of three positions and be a power bat off the bench. As the Phillies continue their evolution from rebuilder to contender, Brandon Moss is the player who answers so many unmet needs for the 2017 season.
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Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.