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Brandon Moss to be Royals’ DH

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Yes, a team finally signed Brandon Moss.

St Louis Cardinals v Chicago Cubs Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At nine o’clock this morning, my article on how “Every team could use Brandon Moss” was published. It was relevant for about four hours until the Royals signed him for two years and $12 million. That’s fine, though, because now I get to write more about Brandon Moss.

My initial reaction was, “That doesn’t make sense.” The Royals have a solid left fielder in Alex Gordon, so Moss probably won’t be needed there. When I say “solid,” what I mean is “four-time Gold Glove award winner, three-time All Star, who also won a Platinum Glove.” Their first baseman has three Gold Gloves and was last year’s All Star Game MVP. You might have heard of him, he’s kind of a big deal.

With the departure of Kendrys Morales for Toronto, the designated hitter position was up for grabs. Now it is Brandon Moss’s for the taking. His 2016 stats make him look like a great fit:

Player AB AVG HR %XBH AB/HR
Brandon Moss 413 .225 28 52.7 14.75

The one thing a designated hitter needs to be good at is hitting home runs. It doesn’t matter how fast he runs if the ball’s over the fence. This is Moss’s specialty: In 2016, he hit one home run every 14.75 plate appearances. That’s including some really intense slumps when he couldn’t find the ball with a map and a flashlight. Just to compare, Gordon hit a home run every 29.8 plate appearances, and it took Eric Hosmer 26.7.

Home runs are all well and good, but with some speed on the bases, extra-base hits are also very important. More than half of Moss’s hits went for extra bases. His ISO was .259! He hits the ball hard. Compared to Gordon’s ISO of .160 and Hosmer’s of .167, Moss’s power looks very promising for this lineup.

Brandon Moss is not perfect. Sometimes he swings at anything that appears anywhere near the strike zone. His walk rate last year, 8.4 percent, wasn’t very high. Conversely, his strikeout rate of 30.4 percent was very high. With Brandon Moss, there are a lot of swings and misses, but the Royals need power and that’s what he brings to the team.

Plus, Moss recognizes his weaknesses and tries to adjust. Take a look at what he said in a conversation with Eno Sarris of Fangraphs in 2014 about how he covers the plate:

I get close to the plate, because people think I want the ball in, but it’s really so that the pitch away becomes middle, and it’s like a heart of the zone pitch. I hit in way better than I hit away, so I trust myself on the inside pitch and I make the outside pitch middle.

When he makes contact, Moss does not ground into a lot of double plays. He only hit into eight during the 2016 season, while Hosmer grounded into 18. The departure of Morales meant the departure of 30 home runs. Moss had 28 in a lot fewer plate appearances last year, so as far as replacements go, the Royals did pretty darn good.

His splits are pretty even in terms of average, .223 against righties and .232 against lefties in 2016. Most of his home runs (25) came off right-handed pitchers, though. His doubles are much more evenly split.

Gordon and Hosmer aren’t going to play 162 games in 2017. Someone will need to be the backup, and Brandon Moss can be that guy. His UZR/150 was -6.1 at first base, which leaves a lot to be desired, but he is more than capable of filling in for a short time. His UZR/150 in left field was 6.9, indicating that subbing Moss in for Gordon may not be quite so drastic a decline. Also:

At the end of the day, I just really like Brandon Moss. If you could personify a ray of sunshine, it would be Brandon Moss. As a Missourian, I am glad we get to keep him around a little while longer. But Brandon Moss brings power to a lineup that really needed some pop, and it is a good deal for their immediate future.