LEFT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: April 28, 1986
Height: 6′ 1″
Drafted: 1st Round, 4th Overall, 2007
How Acquired: Draft
Agent: Mark Pieper
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates selected Moskos with the fourth pick in the 2007 draft. Although Baseball America rated him as the 8th best player in the draft, there were better players available, including several potential impact hitters. The Pirates, however, were unwilling to pay the money needed to acquire Scott Boras client Matt Wieters. For some reason they also passed over Georgia HS prospect Jason Heyward even though scouting director Ed Creech lived in Georgia. Instead, they fell back on their Littlefield-era default choice of college pitching. Moskos signed in mid-July for $2.475M.
Moskos’ high rating by BA and other observers was a little puzzling all along. He was Clemson’s closer in 2006, but converted to starting partway into the 2007 season. He threw in the low- to mid-90s with a lot of life as a closer, but only 89-92 when starting, and by the end of the season he was down in the high 80s. Moskos supposedly had a “wipeout” slider that served as his out pitch, along with a curve and change that were not as well regarded. BA described his command as average. He has a high-effort delivery and had little projection at the time of the draft, so he was probably about as good as he was going to get. His college numbers were good but not overwhelming; for one thing, he allowed far more baserunners than the typical dominating college hurler, especially one pitching mainly in relief. As a starter, scouts projected him in the middle, not the front, of the rotation. Many observers thought he’d return to the bullpen as a pro and, in fact, the Pirates said after the draft that he’d be a closer. It’s difficult not to draw the conclusion that, aside from money, the Pirates were influenced by two other factors in making the pick: Salomon Torres’ struggles as closer shortly before the draft and the desire to get bullpen help for 2008, when they figured to be trying to avoid tying the record for consecutive losing seasons. If so, the selection belied former GM Dave Littlefield’s statement, made shortly before the draft, that the team would take the best player available regardless of specific needs.
As if the questionable ceiling wasn’t enough, Moskos had to face the ominous prospect of being a first round Pirates’ pitcher. At the time of the selection, the Pirates had taken pitchers first seven times in nine years. Five of the seven saw their careers derailed by major arm surgery and one other went nowhere due to arm problems and poor command. Two of the seven were relievers in college yet still ran into major health problems as pros, so the fact that Moskos had less wear than some college pitchers did little to reduce the risk factor. His high effort delivery also contributed to the injury risk. For all kinds of reasons, this was a baffling and frustrating selection. It also created a furor among Pirate fans that seemed to catch management off guard. In fact, the best thing that could be said about the selection is that the resulting, and justified, criticism probably contributed to Littlefield’s long overdue firing.
Moskos’ performance after signing didn’t help quell the uproar. After a couple warmup outings in the GCL, he went to State College and pitched poorly. A .328 opponents’ BA in short season ball is not exactly what people expect from a guy taken fourth overall from a very strong draft pool. There were conflicting reports about Moskos’ velocity, but most indicated it got into the low 90s at least some of the time.
Opened in the Lynchburg rotation, as the team’s new management believes that pitching prospects should at least initally be brought along as starters to get increased work. Unfortunately, Moskos pitched poorly from start, getting hit hard, struggling at times with his control, and posting a K rate far below league average. He regressed over time, culminating in a horrid July with an ERA of 11.81 and more walks than strikeouts. The Pirates blamed the July collapse on fatigue, but Moskos wasn’t pitching well even before then. His offerings left scouts thoroughly unimpressed, as his fastball was generally only in the high 80s and his slider bore no resemblance to a “wipeout” pitch . Scouts also questioned his conditioning. The only positive was better pitching after Moskos moved to the bullpen in August, posting a 2.61 ERA and fanning 20 in 20.2 IP, with 17 hits allowed. For the year, his problems came mostly against RHP hitters, as he was effective against LH hitters. He also had a high groundout to air out ratio of 1.89.
The Pirates promoted Moskos to Altoona and put him back in the rotation. He showed improvement from the start, but for much of season his walk total was higher than his K total. He survived by inducing large numbers of groundballs, as he had a 2.10 GO/AO ratio for the year. Late in season, he started putting up better numbers. He fanned 27 while walking only six and allowing 31 hits in his last 33 IP. Moskos’ stock took another hit, though, in the Arizona Fall League, as he struggled there and generated abysmal scouting reports.
Back at Altoona in 2010, Moskos opened the season as closer and seemingly turned things completely around. His fastball was in the mid-90s regularly and his slider was effective again. He dominated both right- and left-handed hitters, fanned more than a batter an inning, and got a lot of groundballs. At end of June the Pirates promoted Moskos to Indianapolis and he seemed finally to be on fast track to Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, he completely imploded in AAA due to an inability to throw strikes. He struggled in pretty much every outing and eventually went back to Altoona, where he picked up where he’d left off before the promotion. It’s hard to understand how he could have such different experience from moving up just one level, but evidently AAA hitters weren’t chasing pitches that AA hitters were chasing. Even at Altoona the one, seemingly minor flaw in Moskos’ pitching was somewhat shaky control.
The Pirates added Moskos to the 40-man roster after the 2010 season and sent him back to Indianapolis to open 2011. He pitched well in April and got called up late in the month. Except for one brief spell in May, he stayed in the majors until July. He continued pitching well in AAA until August, when he struggled. His numbers in AAA were good except for the low K rate. He was very tough on left-handed hitters (.533 OPS), just decently against right-handed hitters (.729 OPS). As the WHIP shows, he didn’t pitch as well in the majors as his ERA indicates. He tended to fall behind hitters and didn’t show the stuff he supposedly had in 2010. His fastball sat at 92 and topped out at 94, and his slider wasn’t very effective. He had a huge reverse platoon split that was probably a fluke. He did continue to be a strong groundball pitcher and allowed no HRs. The Pirates generally tried to use Moskos in low leverage situations, in contrast to Tony Watson, so it’s clear that Watson has surpassed Moskos on the depth chart.
Moskos adapted much better to AAA in 2011 and pitched decently in the majors, but he didn’t show the outstanding stuff that he supposedly had as a closer in college. Combined with his shaky command, it’s hard to see him as more than a middle reliever unless his stuff takes a step forward. He did have a good spring in 2012, but lost out to Tony Watson for the one lefty spot in the bullpen. He’ll open in AAA and will probably appear in Pittsburgh at some point.
UPDATE: Moskos continued to get uninspiring results in AAA in 2012 and, in late June, the Pirates designated him for assignment to clear 40-man roster space. It wouldn’t be surprising if he cleared waivers.
|2012: Major League Minimum
2011: Major League Minimum
|Signing Bonus: $2,475,000
MiLB Debut: 2007
MLB Debut: 4/30/2011
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2017
Rule 5 Eligible: Protected
Added to 40-Man: 11/19/2010
Options Remaining: 1 (USED: 2011, 2012)
MLB Service Time: 0.094
|June 7, 2007: Drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1st round, 4th overall pick; signed on July 17.
November 19, 2010: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
June 26, 2012: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.