Monday, November 9, 2009

#24 Daniel Moskos

OK, let's get over the Matt Wieter thing. Daniel Moskos went fourth in the 2007 draft, taken ahead of the highly touted people's choice, Wieters. In hindsight, a bad move, one of many made during the Dave Littlefield era.

But Moskos was considered by some to be a top-eight selection that year after a stellar career at Clemson, and played in both the College World Series and for Team USA.

So he wasn't exactly chopped liver, although several scouts thought that he wouldn't be able to make the transition to starting, a glaring red flag for a pick of that pedigree.

He was certainly a stretch that way; as a starter, OK pick, as a reliever, closer or not, huge reach. There were some murmurs in the Pirate Nation that he was selected specifically to replace Solomon Torres, then the Bucco closer, in 2008.

None of that, of course, could be blamed on Moskos. Ed Creech, yes, but Daniel Moskos, no.

At any rate, the Bucs avoided going mano-a-mano with Wieter's agent, Scott Boras, and Moskos signed in mid-July for $2.475M.

Now there's no question he could have helped his own cause with a better minor league line, but hey, as the overworn phrase goes, it is what it is. And what it is now is that he stands an outside shot at making the Bucco bullpen sometime in 2010, left-handed pitchers being an endangered species in the Pirates upper levels.

That's not quite the same as arriving as a middle-of-the-order, everyday player, but a common enough Pirate phenomena. Call it the Sean Burnett syndrome.

Three years in the minors haven't vaulted him into the top echelon; in fact, he's 18-17 with a 4.61 ERA as a Bucco prospect. The past two years, they've used him as a starter, after Matt Capps proved a capable replacement for Torres.

That vented the pressure to find a closer, and fit into the new suits preference to stretch their prospects as starters.

He was terrible at Lynchburg in 2008, going 7-7 with a 5.95 ERA, fading badly at the end. But Moskos shaved better than two runs off that mark in 2009 at Altoona, going 11-10 with a 3.74 ERA and actually improved as the season went along.

Is he finally figuring it out? Well, not if you look at his peripheries. His K rate dropped from over 6 per nine innings in 2008 to under five in AA, and his walks kept steady at a 3.5/9-inning clip. His WHIP dropped some, but still is on the high side at 1.46, as he gives up better than a hit per frame.

But he does bring a couple of things to the table, too. Moskos has a low home run rate, one every 13 or 14 innings, as befits a ground-ball pitcher with a 2.1/1 ground ball/fly ball ratio in 2009.

It's been suggested that his strong finish at Altoona had much to do with improved conditioning habits, so perhaps he's learning to use the off-season to his advantage.

Moskos throws two fastballs, a four-seam and a two-seam. The two-seam is the one that has the most movement and velocity, fluctuating between 91-95 MPH and said to touch 97 when Moskos reaches back for something extra.

His slider is sharp and comes in at 86 or 87 MPH, although he has trouble spinning it through the strike zone. But it was ranked by Baseball America as the best in the Pirate system after the 2007 season.

He's developed a change up that he has enough confidence in to throw lefty-on-lefty, and shows a so-so curve.

His mechanics are another matter. He has a high-effort, all-out delivery with a lot of movement, along the lines of Daniel McCutcheon, and could use some work on quieting it down.

Moskos should start 2010 at Indy, possibly in the rotation, where his value is the greatest. If he continues to improve as much as he did from 2008 to 2009, he's young enough at 23 to continue his education as a starter there seamlessly.

If not, the Bucs could pare him down to a smaller toolkit of pitches and prime him as a future lefty set-up guy or LOOGY. That's his likeliest scenario, given his history and current Pirate needs.

(Next #23 - Nelson Pereira)


WilliamJPellas said...

I think Moskos will likely be a major league reliever for some time if he stays healthy. As to how good or effective he'll be, I'd personally be thrilled if he was anywhere in the neighborhood of John Grabow, but that might be setting the bar a bit high. Not that Grabow was or is Cooperstown (or even All Star) material, but he was certainly a reliably better than average setup guy for several years, and he could close for you in a pinch. Our bullpen misses him mightily, and I personally don't think the relief corps will be complete without a comparable or better pitcher, ie, another good lefthanded reliever.

I'd be on the horn to Mike Gonzalez yesterday if it were up to me, and I don't care if we lose a second round draft pick by signing him, he's worth every nickel.

Again, Moskos will be...okay...I think, but expecting a rookie to come in and replace the production we lost when Grabow was dealt is expecting too much. I do think he'll be useful, but if he's better than that I'll be surprised.

Ron Ieraci said...

His book isn't written yet, Will; the kid is only 23. I do think that if he can come up with a little more command, he could be a Grabow type pitcher or better.

Gonzalez would indeedy be a good fit, but I don't know if the suits see the value of a second round quite the same as you do, hehe.

But yah, I do agree that Gonzo is certainly superior to anything they'd snag on that round and fills two needs, an eighth inning guy and lefty. And hey, it only seems fair that Pittsburgh lets LaRoche go and gets Gonzo back, sorta a MLB lend-lease program.

WilliamJPellas said...

Love the historical reference, there, Ron! :-D Certainly fitting for an old Cold Warrior like yourself!