He shares the Mariners’ lead for home runs and ranks second in stolen bases. He’s got the highest slugging percentage and OPS on the team, and he's played surprisingly strong defense in the outfield as well.
Red-hot rookie center fielder Kyle Lewis?
Nope, we’re talking about Dylan Moore, a 28-year-old utility player who has transformed into an offensive force and taken over an everyday role as the most surprising player on Seattle’s roster through the first three weeks of this unique 2020 season.
Moore played in 113 games last year as a rookie, impressing the Mariners with his versatility, but knowing he needed to improve with the bat after posting a .206/.302/.389 slash line with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 282 plate appearances.
Fast forward to this year, and Moore -- after missing much of Summer Camp following an asymptomatic bout with COVID-19 -- is hitting .313/.377/.646 with four homers and nine RBIs in 53 plate appearances after Tuesday's 4-2 loss to the Rangers. His 436-foot blast to dead center field in Monday's victory was 2 feet shy of the longest by a Mariner this year (which was hit by Lewis).
While the sample size is still small, Moore’s power is no fluke. Entering Tuesday, his percentage of hard-hit balls (defined as an exit velocity of 95-plus mph, per Statcast) of 56.7 is tops on the Mariners, and his percentage of barreled balls per plate appearance of 14.3 is more than double Lewis’ 6.7 atop Seattle’s leaderboard.
In short, Moore is checking all the analytical boxes, as well as impressing those who’ve watched his progress in person.
“He is an absolute stud,” teammate Kyle Seager said. “He hammers balls. He hits the ball so hard. Also, the defensive versatility is great. He can really pick it. Anywhere he goes, he’s really clean. And he runs. He steals bags and takes the extra base. He is a ballplayer. There is no doubt about it.”
The 6-foot, 185-pound Moore started a game at every defensive position except catcher last year. Though he was an infielder coming up in the Minors, he’s quickly adapted to the outfield as well. But what’s keeping him on the field now is his bat.
“He’s very athletic, but extremely strong,” Seager said. “I know he’s made some swing adjustments and the coaches are working with him, but the ball comes off his bat hard, and it is loud. His ability to drive the ball, especially to the opposite field, is impressive. That’s also a testament to how athletic and strong he is.”
Manager Scott Servais said that sometimes players get pigeon-holed into roles, and Moore is out to prove he’s more than a utility player. Initially pegged as one of several players -- along with Tim Lopes, José Marmolejos and Dee Gordon -- destined to split time in one corner-outfield spot and fill in where needed, Moore quickly expanded on that plan by producing at every opportunity.
“It means a lot,” Moore said of the chance to play consistently. “It’s a lot of hard work that I put in over the offseason, trying to get better at what I wasn’t good at. I learned a lot last year and wanted to improve on everything I learned. I know opportunities are slim and I wanted to make the most of it, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Frankoff added to alternate training site
The Mariners signed free agent right-hander Seth Frankoff to a Minor League contract and added him to their 60-man player pool. The 31-year-old appeared in one game in relief for the Cubs on June 9, 2017, then was claimed off waivers by Seattle that September. The Mariners granted him his release three months later so he could pursue an opportunity in Korea, where he pitched in 2018 and '19.
The Mariners’ 60-man player pool is currently at 58, with Frankoff joining the alternate training site in Tacoma, Wash. The remaining two spots will be filled when right-handers Brady Lail and Yoshihisa Hirano are added in the next few days. Lail was claimed off waivers from the White Sox on Monday and is out of Minor League options, so he will likely join the team on the road once he passes COVID-19 intake testing.
Hirano has been throwing at the team’s facility in Peoria, Ariz., as he builds back up after missing most of Summer Camp due to testing positive for COVID-19. He’s expected to report to Tacoma later this week, once he clears his own intake test.
Three other Mariners -- relievers Austin Adams, Brandon Brennan and Gerson Bautista -- are currently on the 45-day injured list and working out in Peoria, which means they don’t count against the 60-man player pool. Outfielder Mitch Haniger also falls in that category as he continues rehabbing in California.