By Lauren Smith | McClatchy News Service
SEATTLE — Let Kyle Seager, the most established player on the Mariners’ roster, who has been with the club for the past decade, explain who Dylan Moore is as a baseball player.
“He is an absolute stud,” Seager, Seattle’s veteran third baseman, said earlier this season about the club’s second-year utility player. “He hammers balls. He hits the ball so hard. The defensive versatility is great. He can really pick it, anywhere he goes, he’s really clean there. And he runs. He steals bags. He takes the extra base. He is a ball player — there’s no doubt about it.”
The production the Mariners have seen from Moore — a 28-year-old who spent much of last season acclimating to the big leagues after winning a spot on his first Opening Day roster — in his second season has indeed been one of the most intriguing developments of the Mariners’ season of opportunity for young players.
“He’s an exciting player,” manager Scott Servais said recently. “He can certainly bring a lot to the game.”
Moore’s consistent bat, his ability to plug and play defensively wherever the Mariners need him any given day, and his aggression on the base paths have turned him into an everyday player in Seattle.
“Dylan’s having a great year,” Servais said. “You love to see players that get an opportunity, they grasp onto it, and then they take it and run with it. … He’s seeing the ball great, playing with a ton of confidence on the bases, defensively and certainly in the batter’s box.”
Entering the final week of the regular season, which opened Monday with a three-game series against the Astros at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, Moore was hitting .261/.361/.507 with nine doubles, eight home runs, 17 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 37 games played.
Moore’s stolen bases ranked tied for third in the majors entering Monday, while the club as a whole ranks tied for second with 46. Moore leads the way for Seattle by a significant margin, with Seager, J.P. Crawford and Tim Lopes all tied behind him with five stolen bags apiece.
“Just trying to score runs any way I can,” Moore said recently. “They’ve given me a green light, I would say, and just trying to increase my value as a baseball player and be productive not only at the plate and on defense, but on the bases as well.
“And I think as a group we’ve kind of grown in that regard. We’re younger, we’re more athletic and we’re using that to our advantage.”
Moore has been an offensive leader for Seattle throughout the season in most categories. Despite missing 10 games with a wrist injury in late August and early September, Moore ranks in the top five among Mariners hitters in runs scored, hits, doubles, homers — he’s second behind American League Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Lewis, who has 11 — stolen bases, walks, batting average and on-base percentage. His slugging percentage and OPS (.869) both lead players on the active roster as of Monday.
“I know he made some swing adjustments, the coaches have been working with him, but the ball comes off his bat hard, and it is loud,” Seager said. “His ability to drive the ball, especially to the opposite field, is impressive, and that’s also a testament to how athletic and how strong he is.”
Moore said following last season, when he hit .206/.302/.389 in 113 games, he wanted to be more direct to the ball, and create less swing-and-miss. He shortened up his approach, and the results have followed.
“It took some time for me to kind of figure out what went wrong last year, and if it was a timing thing, if it was something I could change with the lower half or the upper half,” Moore said. “But, I just figured that when I hit the ball on the barrel, I hit it pretty hard, and if I can increase the amount of times that I hit the barrel, and less swing-and-miss, then I think I’ll be more successful. That’s basically what it came down to.”
Moore proved as a rookie last season he can be a reliable defender wherever he’s needed, and has continued to offer the Mariners stability in the field appearing at first base (three games), second (nine), shortstop (three), third (two), left field (13), center (one) and right (13) this season.
But, his bat is what has made him a staple in Seattle’s lineup every day, where he usually bats second in the order.
“I knew that my opportunities would be a little bit staggered at first, but I knew that if I showed a little bit of consistency and a willingness to play multiple positions, and show my value that way, that I would get a shot,” Moore said. “That’s all this game is —opportunities and trying to take advantage of them, and I’m happy that I’ve done that so far, and I want to continue to do that.”
“I have been unbelievably impressed with him,” Seager said. “He’s a strong guy. He’s got some pop. He plays really good defensively. And he can run. In my eyes, he’s a stud. I think he’s really, really good. … He’s athletic, he moves well — he’s just a baseball player.”