The RotoGraphs staff was pretty divided on the fantasy turtle in the American League. There were plenty of candidates to choose from, including Max Scherzer, Carlos Santana and Ben Zobrist. But the most interesting player on the list might have been Brandon Moss. A career .251/.358/.442 hitter, the 28-year-old Moss mashed over the second half of the season. His .291/.358/.596 was so unexpected, which likely led to him being available in just about every league. And if you were lucky enough to be the first owner in your league to realize Moss’ performance, you may have walked away with a league title.
What sets Moss apart from all the other candidates is that he came at the cheapest price. Moss shouldn’t have been drafted in any leagues, and only cost a late-season waiver wire add. Since Moss didn’t make his season debut until June, owners had a better opportunity to judge the players on their team, thus picking up Moss for dead weight without worrying about that player coming back to haunt their team.
The problem with picking Moss is that owners might not have noticed how well he was playing until July or August.
Moss clubbed seven home runs in just 74 plate appearances in June, but didn’t add much in any other category. His .224 average probably suppressed his value. While he was able to improve on his average in July and August, his power numbers started to decline. While it’s hard to complain about slugging percentages above .500, he only hit four home runs in both months. It was a solid stretch, but Moss probably wasn’t producing spectacular value at that point.
But Moss turned things on at exactly the right time. As the season was coming to a close, Moss hit .369/.433/.690 in the final month of the season. He managed to club six home runs, and posted 19 runs and 18 RBI. Moss was clearly at his best as the season came to a close. In most leagues, Moss was a top-10 player during the last month of the season. Considering what it cost to pick him up, that’s a tremendous performance.
But owners probably shouldn’t get too sentimental with Moss. While he may have helped some teams win championships, his performance is unlikely to carry over to next season. He’s a 28-year-old, journeyman outfielder who went on a ridiculous tear at the end of the season. There’s very little in his profile that suggests he altered his approach, or that his performance was sustainable.
The biggest problem with Moss going forward might be his strikeout rate. Moss struck out in 30.8% of his at-bats, but somehow was able to hit .291. The only explanation for Moss’ high batting average is his .359 BABIP. Both his average and BABIP should decline significantly next year. He’ll have to retain the power numbers if he hopes to succeed as a low-average, high-strikeout guy going forward. And considering he’s never shown this type of power in his career before, that seems unlikely.
But for a small stretch, Moss was one of the best fantasy players freely available. Based on his stats during the final month of the season, he may have singlehandedly won fantasy leagues. He may never have significant fantasy value ever again, but he did his part when it mattered the most this year. Flags fly forever, as they say.