Despite dealing away some of their most promising young players in the Christian Yelich trade this past January, the Milwaukee Brewers still have a strong assembly of minor league talent in their pipeline. Keston Hiura, the club’s #1 prospect, is obviously the most well-known, but Corey Ray is also finally making good on his tools down in Biloxi. Meanwhile, guys like Brett Phillips, Troy Stokes, Jacob Nottingham, and Lucas Erceg can all put a charge into the ball. But none of those names littered among the top prospect lists are currently leading the organization in hitting. In terms of on-base percentage-plus-slugging percentage (OPS), that title currently belongs to 25 year old infielder Dylan Moore.
Moore began his career just a few short years ago, when he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 7th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. A cash-saving senior sign, he inked for only a $20,000 bonus coming out of Central Florida. But even at that time, scouts were a little bit higher on Moore than your typical run-of-the-mill college senior, with Baseball America noting that he was a solid all-around player with a disciplined approach and improving power whose makeup and instincts helped him get the most of his tools.
Moore hit the ground running once he arrived in the professional ranks. He began his time as a pro with the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League and posted a True Average (TAv) north of .300 in 65 games before getting a promotion to the Hickory Crawdads of the Sally League for a brief four-game foray to close out the season. In 69 games between the two stops, Moore hit a combined .271/.376/.454 with seven home runs and 15 steals. He began 2016 back in Hickory as a 23 year old and though he only hit for a paltry .244 batting average, Moore drew a free pass in 13 percent of his plate appearances and hit for extra bases 30 times in 101 games, including nine home runs. That translated to a .244/.372/.394 slash for a terrific .301 TAv, and on top of that he swiped 37 bags with an 80 percent success rate.
The Rangers then brought Moore up to Class-A Advanced High Desert, where he demolished the ball for 17 games. In 80 plate appearances, Moore slashed .351/.400/.649, clubbed five dingers, seven doubles, and nabbed three bases. Then on August 24th, Moore was sent to Atlanta as part of a complicated three team deal that ultimately brought Jeff Francoeur from Atlanta to Miami, prospect Matt Foley from Miami to Atlanta, and three international bonus slots to Texas.
Atlanta assigned Moore to the Class-A Advanced Carolina Mudcats (now a Brewers’ affiliate) and he closed out the year by hitting for a .337 TAv in 10 games. All together in 2016, Moore posted a .269/.379/.441 slash with 14 home runs and 42 steals. Wanting to see more of Dylan, the Braves made him one of their representatives for the Arizona Fall League and he only continued to impress. In 11 games for the Salt River Rafters, Moore hit .317/.378/.537 with two homers and two steals. Even though he was slightly old for each league that he played in during his highly successful 2016 campaign, Moore began to show up on the back end of Braves prospect lists that offseason. That includes the Fangraphs’ list, where Eric Longenhagen ranked him #26:
“Despite a very simple swing consisting of very little lower half use, Moore is able to generate average raw power, and he can torch balls on the inner half. When pitchers are working him away, he has trouble getting the bat head there without extending his hands early and arriving late…He’s a 40 runner and, despite having played most of his pro career there, I don’t think he fits at short full time. He’s already begun to see time at the other three infield spots, and he spent time in the outfield with Texas…I like him as a mistake-hitting utility man who plays all over the field.”
Mark Anderson of Baseball Prospectus also had some praise for the utilityman during the Fall League:
“Already 24-years old, Moore is far from a high-end prospect, but he’s shown some bat-to-ball ability and gap pop since signing as seventh round pick in 2015. Traded as part of a three-team deal that sent international bonus pools in every direction, Moore has the feel and high effort style of play to make his modest tools work in a utility role at the big league level.”
They say the toughest jump for any minor league ballplayer is the one from Class-A Advanced up to Double-A, as Double-A is often where a player’s abilities are tested for the first time against other young men with the realistic goal of making the big leagues. Unfortunately for Moore, that leap proved too difficult to handle effectively, at least his first time around. Unable to build on his success from the previous season, Moore could manage only a .207/.291/.292 slash in 122 games for an anemic .236 TAv. He struck out in nearly 20 percent of his plate appearances and couldn’t drive the ball at all like he did previously, yielding only an .086 ISO. He wasn’t nearly as effective on the base paths either, swiping only 10 bases successfully in 18 attempts.
But most of the damage to Moore’s feeble full-season output came during the first two months of the 2017 season, and once he got his feet wet at the Double-A level his production began to improve. In 67 games from June 15th through the end of the season, Moore hit .260/.347/.351, which actually translated to a better-than-average batting line in the pitching-friendly Southern League. That wasn’t enough to save him, however. Atlanta kept Dylan around through the 2017-18 offseason, but apparently had soured on him enough that they surprisingly released him during this past Spring Training.
In desperate need of middle infield depth in their upper minors, the Milwaukee Brewers wasted little time in pouncing on Moore once he became available. He inked a minor league deal on April 3rd and reported to Biloxi for a second-chance at taking down the Southern League. He didn’t last very long at Double-A, but this time it was for a good reason. Moore started 24 games for the Shuckers, and in 91 plate appearances he demolished his foes to the tune of a .373/.429/.639 slash with three long balls, three triples, seven doubles, and six steals. On May 10th, he was promoted to Triple-A for the first time in his career.
Moore’s bat has stayed hot at the highest level of the minors. He’s now suited up in 41 games for the Sky Sox. In 151 plate appearances, he’s hitting .313/.384/.560 with another five homers and nine more steals. The hitter-friendly environs of Colorado Springs dampen that to a still-strong .282 TAv, but in 242 plate appearances between Biloxi and Colorado Springs Moore now owns an org-leading .991 OPS. He’s also started games at every fielding position except catcher and right field this season. A shortstop by trade, Moore can still handle the spot but possesses only an average arm and he has spent most of his time at second base and third base since getting bumped up to the Sky Sox.
Moore will turn 26 later this summer and will be Rule 5-eligible for the first time this coming offseason. He appears to have gotten his game back on track is getting close to fulfilling the future 50 hit, 50 raw power grades that Longenhagen placed on him only two winters ago. A solid contact hitter (16.9 percent K rate this season) from the right side who can play all over the field, Moore’s profile is a bit reminiscent of current MLB super-utilityman Hernan Perez, who has proven to be an extremely useful (although not exactly good) player in parts of four seasons with Milwaukee. Moore may even have a little bit more power potential, and certainly appears to possess a better eye at the plate, meaning that he could have even more upside in a utility role than Hammerin’ Hernan has shown. Given how the Brewers have cycled through the middle infielders already this season as they chase their first playoff berth in seven years, it certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise to see Dylan Moore get an opportunity before the end of 2018.