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Brandon Moss: The New Adam LaRoche?

Brandon Moss came over to the Pirates in the Jason Bay trade last year, sporting a career .291 average in 103 major league at bats, and a .279 average in his minor league career, including .282 at AAA. The 2009 season marks the first year that Moss has the opportunity to be an everyday starter, and so far the results haven’t been impressive.

While Moss looks good on the field, making several catches that options such as Craig Monroe and Eric Hinske couldn’t pull off, his performance at the plate leaves a lot to be desired. At the end of the first month of the season, Moss is hitting .203 with no homers in 59 at bats.

So what is the story with Moss? Is he a bust? Is he not ready for the majors yet at the age of 25 (turning 26 in September)? Or maybe he’s the new version of Adam LaRoche, lacking the ability to hit in the month of April.

Looking at his minor league splits, I noticed a trend with Moss. He is horrible in April. In his minor league career, Moss has a .243 average in the month of April. In the remaining months of the season, Moss combines for a .288 average in his minor league career.

Compare that to LaRoche, who is now hitting .199 in his career in the month of April, and .289 in the remaining months. Is it a guarantee that Moss will suddenly flip the switch at the turn of the calendar page? His history shows a trend, but nothing can guarantee that this is his problem.

So how long do we give Moss? Considering that Andrew McCutchen is currently hitting .282 at AAA, and can be called up anytime now, while getting an extra year of team control in the process, I’d say Moss is on a short leash. My guess is the Pirates will give Moss another month to turn things around. Considering how well Nyjer Morgan has been playing, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Moss would be the odd-man out when McCutchen gets the call, unless Moss starts hitting.

The question would then be: what happens to the roster. If the Pirates called Andrew McCutchen up at the end of May, they would have McCutchen, Morgan, and McLouth as the starters, and Moss, Monroe, Hinske, and Delwyn Young on the bench. There certainly wouldn’t be a need for that many outfielders. Unfortunately, Morgan is the only player who can be sent down, and the chances of that happening are extremely slim.

Unless the Pirates are planning on holding McCutchen down the entire year, they’re going to have to make a decision when he gets the call to the majors. One of Moss, Monroe, Hinske, or Young would likely be on the way out. Moss is probably safer than Monroe and Hinske, as he is 25 and has at least five more years of team control under his belt. However, if Moss doesn’t start hitting, he could find himself on the bench full time this time next month, and maybe even without a spot on the Pirates roster.

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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