Brandon Moss came out of high school a ninth round pick with a quick bat and a bunch of sushi-raw tools. After his first year in pro ball he moved from second base to the outfield and quietly impressed scouts. Though his 2003 numbers didn't necessarily support the brightest of futures in baseball Moss was young and athletic, so the Red Sox were ready to give him time to develop.
Turns out he didn't need much time after all. In 2004 Moss exploded in Lo-A, hitting .339 with 13 homers and 101 RBI in 109 games. He earned himself a late season promotion to Hi-A and instead of missing a beat, he sped up the tempo, hitting .422 in 23 Hi-A games. That was all the Hi-A Florida State League wanted to see of Moss, and the Red Sox obliged them, letting him start 2005 in Double-A Portland.
Early in the '05 season that looked like it might be a mistake. Moss finished April hitting .209 with 23 strikeouts in 67 at bats and seemed destined to head back to the FSL. Then the calendar turned and Moss turned out to be one of those summer-time specials. He hit over .300 in both May and June and found his power stroke as well, belting 10 homers in those two months. He started driving in runs again (33 over that two month span) and was once again producing like a top prospect.
But the season would take another down turn for Moss in July, when he hit just .168. He would rebound, finishing with two more .300 plus months, but the obvious question about Moss was 'What could have been?' Despite four months over .300 he hit just .268 for the year.
"Baseball is a game of adjustments," Moss says from Phoenix where he's working hard in the Arizona Fall League, "and I was making them."
Of course, when you hit below the Mendoza line for a full month adjustments are going to be called for, but according to Moss it wasn't the adjusting that hurt his average, it was not sticking with those adjustments.
"You always have to adjust, and I would, and I'd have success, and then I would just go back to what wasn't working. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I'd just stop doing the things the coaches and I were working on. That's why I'd come back so strong, because I knew what I was supposed to be doing, I'd just stop doing it for some reason."
It is a surprisingly honest answer from an up and coming player, but that's Moss in a nutshell. Ask coaches and fellow players about him and the words that most often are used are 'hard working,' 'honest,' and 'respectful.' He's been known to apologize for not moving runners along, even once when instead of moving a runner on he shot a ball down the left field line for a RBI double.
It's a trait that can sometimes cause him trouble. Every now and again someone takes his honesty the wrong way. This is worth noting because Brandon Moss is not a 'cocky' player, and that's obvious when you talk to him. But it might read that way.
On the differences he saw between Lo-A and Hi-A ball:
"I don't really know if they are all that different. The pitching isn't any better. Guys will hit their spots more often, but you're seeing 98 in Lo-A and you're seeing that same 98 in Hi-A. If you can hit it at one level you can hit it at the next, and if you can't in Lo-A you aren't going to in Hi-A either."
See, if you took that out of context you might start shaking your head, but if you listen to him say it there isn't even a question, it's just an honest guy speaking about something he knows.
The same sort of thing happens when you bring up David Murphy. When Moss talks of Murphy he sounds like he's talking about an older cousin. There's an immense amount of respect, and he openly talks about learning from Murphy, but the most quotable thing he says, his best explanation of the relationship, reads like he's bitter or angry, even when it sounds 180 degrees from that.
"He's a great player, but I want to be better than him. I don't think he overshadows me, he's just got more pressure to deal with because he's the guy you read about. He deserves all the attention, because he's that good, and if he wasn't that good he wouldn't get the attention. I watch him and I try to pick things up, because he's older, but I'm making big strides down here, catching up to his level."
Of course, if we wanted to start controversy, we'd leave the final sentence out of that quote. Hmmm, the Red Sox and controversy? Never. You know what, we'll rise above it and finish the quote.
"I respect him and we've become good friends. He's been as big a help to me as anybody I've played with or for."
Still, you have to wonder, is that kid really just another cocky player? The easiest way to figure it out is to ask him about himself, not his game or his team, but him. We tried it, and we got exactly what we were expecting.
"Me? Like what kind of player I am?" He stops for a moment, "I'm just a kid who works hard," he pauses again, "A kid who works hard with a good arm."
A good arm? That's it?
"That's my best tool I think, I've always had a good arm, strong and accurate. That's definitely my best tool."
When was the last time you heard a 'cocky' player talk about his arm?
As far as his time in the Arizona Fall League Moss has struggled, hitting just .241, but he's not down here to put up numbers, he here to work on his game, and even if the numbers don't show it Moss knows he's making progress.
"I'm really trying to learn how to work counts better, pick out the pitches I can hit and put myself in situations where I can get those pitches. A lot of times when I would struggle this year I realized I was swinging at bad pitches early in the count and then I'd be in a hole. So down here I'm really concentrating on pitch selection, and then if I do get in a hole I'm trying to learn how to hit when I'm in a hole."
Which of course makes sense, it all comes full circle.
"You make those adjustments not just from game to game, or even at bat to at bat, you make them from pitch to pitch. You can't have the same approach when the count is 2-0 as you do when the count is 0-2. I'm learning how to hit in different counts, and the better I get at that the more complete I'll be."