Patience pays off for both Moore and Nats
Rookie slugger, drafted three times by Washington, making big impact
DENVER -- Year after year, the Nationals kept calling Tyler Moore, and year after year, the answer remained, "Thanks, but no thanks."They drafted him in the 41st round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, but Moore, the Mississippi Player of the Year in high school, elected to go to Meridian Community College for seasoning, an education and a chance to improve his Draft stock. The Nationals chose him again in the 33rd round of the '06 Draft, and again, Moore had to turn them down. "All very tough decisions, but I felt school was important," Moore said. Moore played two years at Meridian CC -- being named the '07 NJCAA Division II Player of the Year with a .472 average and 19 homers at first base -- before spending one year at Mississippi State in Starkville. He expected that if he replicated his Meridian numbers at MSU, he'd shoot up Draft boards. Though he carried his power numbers over to Division I, Moore didn't play up to his standard; his .299 batting average ranked seventh on the team among everyday players. It didn't matter to the persistent Nationals, who picked him once more, in the 16th round of the '08 Draft. "They stuck with me, gave me an opportunity," Moore said with a laugh. "I was lucky that they kept drafting me. " Now Washington's stubbornness is beginning to pay off, as the 25-year-old Moore entered Thursday's series finale in Colorado with six hits, two homers and five RBIs in his prior three games against the Rockies, helping to pace an offense that had scored double-digit runs in consecutive games for the third time in franchise history, and first since 2007. "He has quality at-bats, very seldom does he get himself out," manager Davey Johnson said. "Everybody is really impressed with him ... [his] future is really bright." Moore notched a hit in his Major League debut, April 29 against the Dodgers, but it was one of three he'd get in his first stint with the club, which lasted 12 days (he went 3-for-19, .158 average). Moore was optioned back to Triple-A Syracuse, then called back up on June 7. Since then, he's hitting .455 with four homers -- the first four of his career -- and 10 RBIs, with starts in left field and at first base. The Nationals went 8-3 in that stretch before Thursday's game. If fellow rookie Bryce Harper took the fast track to the Majors, then Moore went the scenic -- and long -- route. He hit six home runs in his professional debut in '08, in the short-season Class A New York-Penn League. A year later, Moore led all Nationals farmhands with 87 RBIs in his first full pro season, with Class A Hagerstown. He was the Nationals' Minor League Player of the Year in 2010 and Carolina League MVP in 2010 with Class A Potomac. Moore joined Double-A Harrisburg in 2011 and led the Eastern League in home runs, RBIs and total bases. Moore began this year with Syracuse, and in two stints, his numbers -- a .310 average, nine homers, 26 RBIs -- proved he was ready for The Show. "This is where I need to be," Moore said. "I've been through every level in the Minors, each season. It feels like home, I know a bunch of these guys." In all, Moore has played in 476 Minor League games. Harper, his teammate at Harrisburg and Syracuse, needed 129 games. "It's good to have Tyler up here, I really like him," Harper said. "He's an amazing talent, hits the ball really well. He's been a force in our lineup. Playing with him in the Minors was a lot of fun, too." Moore's contributions aren't lost on his veteran teammates, either, and he even has shortstop Ian Desmond rethinking his own plate approach. "He's not too cerebral of a hitter, and it makes you think, 'Why am I thinking so much at the plate?' It's contagious," Desmond said. When Moore's at the plate, he's not looking for a certain pitch in a certain location. If he sees one he likes, he'll take a shot at it, no matter the count. He entered play Thursday hitting .800 when swinging at the first pitch. "I stay small, I'm completely 'See ball, hit ball,'" Moore said. "You dumb it down for me, that's when I'm at my best." Johnson prefers to use the right-handed Moore against left-handers, which is why the rookie started all four games in Colorado. But Moore's splits -- 17 at-bats against right-handed pitchers, with a .412 batting average -- suggest he's ready for more than a platoon role going forth. "As far as I'm concerned, [he is]," Johnson said after Wednesday's 11-5 win. "I've been pitting him against lefties, but he handles righties as well." The Nationals were in their first year in Washington when they first drafted Moore in 2005. When he signed with them in '08 -- third time was the charm -- they were in the midst of a 59-102 season. Things are much different now; the club woke up Thursday morning with the best record in the National League. "This," said Ryan Zimmerman, as he waved his hand towards Moore in the Nationals' clubhouse, "shows that our team, our organization, is built to win for a long time. Tyler's been a great player in the Minors for the last few years. I'm proud, and happy for him, that he's playing this well."
Trey Scott is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.