One of the Oakland A's off-season moves that went under the radar was the acquisition of free-agent outfielder Brandon Moss, who happens to be one of Triple-A Sacramento's most dangerous hitters to start the year.
With five seasons in the majors under his belt, the Boston Red Sox's former eighth-round selection in 2002 made a sizeable impact with the storied franchise before being sent to Pittsburgh as a chip in the Manny Ramirez trade. He had an 804 OPS in 49 games for the Red Sox in 2008.
Since then, the left-handed hitter bounced from the Pirates to the Phillies in 2011, before landing with Oakland last fall. In nine games this year for Sacramento, Moss is hitting .349/.483/.739 with a 1222 OPS.
"I'm hitting between two guys that are 6'6", 260 pounds, so [pitchers] are definitely looking at me like ‘here's a break in the order.' So they pitch a little bit more to you," Moss said.
"He's a professional. He's been around for a long time. He's got a very good attitude – a good outlook. He carries it right into the game," Sacramento manager Darren Bush said.
Moss spent his winter playing in the Dominican Winter League. It went really well, he said, and allowed him to work on his timing at the plate and springboard himself into a good showing in spring training. There, he collected 11 hits in 22 at-bats while driving in seven, proving that perhaps he could have value in the major leagues once again.
The career .236/.300/.382-hitter in the big leagues had his best years with the Red Sox in 2007 and 2008. His only full season in the majors came in '09, when he played 133 games for the lowly Pirates, who went 62-99. He hit just .236 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs. The Pirates hit just .252 and finished in last place in the National League Central.
"Everybody talks about Boston being high-pressure and a hard place to play. I imagine when they're losing, it is. But I was fortunate enough to be there when they were winning and it was the easiest place I've ever played," Moss said.
"The hardest place to play is Pittsburgh because there are so many expectations to lose ... when I was there it was just a transition stage where no one really cared. That to me was harder than when I was in Boston where you go and whatever you do to contribute to a win is great."
Moss finds himself in a crowded River Cats' outfield that features some prominent prospects, including Grant Green, Jermaine Mitchell and Taylor. He's unlikely to leapfrog those three on the organizational depth chart, but does have power from the left side – something his teammates lack.
The 28-year-old has found himself in cleanup spot often for the River Cats, who have stormed out of the gate in 2012 to the tune of a .318 average entering Saturday. He attributes his hot start in part to balls falling, but also being apart of a lineup that's seeing the ball very well.
"I think you go up there, you see a couple guys ahead of you squaring balls up, and you go up there thinking you're going to see the ball a little bit better. Or maybe this guy isn't going to have hit best stuff tonight," Moss said.
"All pitchers can get you out, whether they're good or bad. And all pitchers can be hit, whether they're good or bad. When you get guys on base it opens up holes – creates holes where hits can fall in and good things can happen. Hitting is definitely contagious in that aspect."
Whether or not Moss can crack the major leagues for the A's remains to be seen. It's an uphill battle at this point, but having time at the highest level works out in his favor. With Oakland having one of the most inexperienced rosters in baseball, Moss could be a quick fix option who wouldn't need extra time to adjust to major league pitching.