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Moss Grows On the North Side, Flourishes In the East Bay

Okay, so maybe Moss doesn’t only grow on the north side of things. That is what I get for learning my outdoors lessons from Hey Arnold! and never being a Boy Scout. Nature references aside, Brandon Moss has put up big numbers for the Oakland A’s and fantasy owners for two straight years. After bouncing around with the Red Sox, Pirates, and Phillies, Moss has finally found a home in Oakland as their primary first baseman.

Since the beginning of the 2012 season — among first baseman with at least 750 plate appearances — Moss’ .381 wOBA ranks fifth and his 146 wRC+ rates as fourth best. Socking 51 dingers over that time frame places Moss eighth and his 139 RBIs come in at 15th. Consistency in counting stats over the past two years hasn’t been an issue, however we have seen shifts in his rate stats.

A .359 BABIP in 2012 helped elevate his slash line to .291/.358/.596 and while his batted ball rate did regress, Moss made adjustments to his game to mitigate that loss. This year he managed to trim his strikeout rate from an eye popping 30.4% in 2012 down to a more manageable — albeit still high — 27.7%. Strikeouts are part of the package with Moss, as he is a bit a free swinger. His 15.3% SwStr% over the past two seasons has been the fourth highest in all of baseball (minimum 750 PA’s again).

Even with the swings and misses, Moss will work the count and take a walk if one presents itself. He has seen an average of 4.00 and 3.99 pitches per plate appearance in 2012 and 2013 respectively which is slight favorable when pitted against this seasons 3.84 league average. Extra pitches, however small add up and Moss saw an additional 76 (75.75, but we’re rounding up) pitches this year when compared to a league average hitter. On top of seeing more pitches, Moss’ walk rate climbed to nearly double digits, 9.9% this year.

Adding to Moss’ power, walks, and counting stats is his position eligibility. Besides being first base eligible, one could plug Moss in the outfield. If your league splits the outfield — and I personally believe that is the only way to play fantasy baseball — into LF, CF, and RF compartments, then Moss qualifies in right field with 20 games started. On top of that, thanks to five starts and three additional appearances in left field, he should qualify in both corner outfield slots, allowing you to juggle your daily lineup quite efficiently.

The lineup flexibility really comes into play when considering the biggest drawback to Moss: his platoon situation. Despite accruing 505 PA’s this season, only 88 of them came against left-handed pitchers. Kudos to the A’s for maximizing Moss’ talent while realizing his weaknesses, but if you draft Moss, you’ll have to keep a close eye on his matchups and the A’s lineup card. Given Moss’ struggles against same-handed pitching, expect him to take a seat once or twice a week. That type of careful screening and lineup checking can be a turnoff to some fantasy owners, but if you are looking for relatively cheap power, Moss is your guy. Despite the issues against fellow lefties, Moss crushes right-handed pitching enough and hits in prime spots for counting stats. Don’t overlook him.