By Ryan Divish | The Seattle Times
ARLINGTON, Texas — Dylan Moore has never viewed himself as anything but an everyday player in some way. It didn’t matter what position he was playing in the field, but he felt he could find his way into the lineup on a daily basis with his athleticism, speed, sneaky power potential and versatility.
And it appears he’s finally hit his way into that early opportunity in this shortened 60-game season with the Mariners.
After sitting out the first four games of the season in Houston, most of it due to missing most of summer camp due to an asymptomatic positive COVID-19 test, Moore has started 13 of the Mariners’ past 16 games, including the past eight in a row.
“It means a lot,” Moore said. “It’s a lot of hard work that I put in the offseason and to try and get better at what I wasn’t good at. I learned last year. And I know opportunities are slim, and I want to make the most of them. And that’s what I’m trying to do here.”
Moore came into the game Wednesday with a .313/.377/.646 slash line with four doubles, four homers, nine RBI, three stolen bases, three walks and 15 strikeouts. He is tied for the team lead with Kyle Lewis for home runs and his eight extra-base hits were just one behind Kyle Seager’s team-high nine.
Obviously, it’s not a sustainable pace for an entire season. But Moore has made adjustments to his swing and his approach at the plate this offseason in hopes of being a legit contributor on offense. Add in the extra muscle he put on and the result is the ball coming off his bat much harder.
His blistering home run to center off Jesse Sanchez in the victory Monday over the Rangers was a good example. Per MLB statcast, the ball traveled 436 feet and had a 108 mph exit velocity.
This season his balls in play have an average exit velocity of 94.1 mph compared to 88.1 mph last season. And of those balls in play, 56.7 percent have been considered hard hit with exit velocities greater than 95 mph, which is a team-high. A year ago, he had a 36.4 hard hit percentage.
He also leads the Mariners with a 22.3 barrel percentage. A year ago, he had a 6.5 barrel percentage.
A ball in play is considered a “barrel” — a reference to the big part of the bat — when it achieves an exit velocity and launch angle that have led to comparable hit types that have achieved a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast data started to be collected in 2015.
To achieve a barrel classification, a batted ball must reach an exit velocity of at least 98 mph and have a launch angle between 26 and 30 degrees. And this scale slides by exit velocity gain. For every 1 mph increase in exit velocity, the range of the launch angle expands to be considered a barrel. So a ball that has a 99 mph exit velocity achieves barrel if the launch angle is between 25 and 31 degrees.
Yes, these are all very small sample sizes for Moore. But the results are still promising. He’s also been driving the ball over the field, showing real power to right and right-center.
“I’ve been able to drive it more instead of just kind of forcing it that way,” he said. “I’ve been letting the barrel get through the zone with more power. It’s been jumping [off the bat] that way. I’m fine with it wherever it goes out on the field. But it seems like right now, I’m trying to hit it over there. And if I can hit it out anywhere, it’s great.”
That ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field has been a key to his early success.
“Absolutely, you don’t to have a hole or you want to minimize your holes as much as you can,” Moore said. “And I think that with my approach right now I can cover a lot of the plate, sometimes too much. And I’m confident with going to all parts of the field.”
Players have talked about how hard the ball was coming off Moore’s bat dating back to spring training.
“He is an absolute stud,” Seager said. “He hammers balls and he hits the ball so hard. He’s fast and he’s very athletic, but he is extremely strong. I know he’s made swing adjustments and the coaches have been working with him. The ball comes off his bat hard and it is loud. You add his ability to drive the ball to the opposite field. It’s a testament to how strong and how athletic he is.”