Tuesday night was the deadline for teams to make changes to their 40-man roster and the evening was a happy one for the many players who are gracing their parent club's expanded roster for the first time. But while a number of youngsters received a substantial commitment from their organization, the very opposite happened for many older players. It's always hard to see anyone* get DFA'd, but nobody's release gave me a greater pang than Adam Moore's. While Moore may have been fairly old when he came up as a rookie (25), he's really young to have been DFA'd by his second organization (28).
*- Well, maybe not EVERYONE.
Moore, you may remember, was once a top Mariner prospect. He was a bit of a late bloomer, not debuting until his age 25 season in 2009, but he was nonetheless expected to settle in as the team's backstop the following year. Kevin Goldstein, then of Baseball Prospectus, gave Moore a strong review over the off-season, writing: "Moore projects as an everyday major-league catcher with few weaknesses. He's an adept hitter with gap power, and at times more power, and he has enough plate discipline to keep pitchers honest." Moore was unlikely to develop into a star, but he was billed as a big league ready catcher who could already be expected to hold down a starting job.
Obviously things didn't work out so well for Moore. A litany of injuries limited him to 68 games in his three seasons in Seattle. A jammed knee held him out for three months in 2010, a torn meniscus ruined his 2011 season, and a broken hand last March essentially ended his tenure as a Mariner.
While the injuries undoubtedly hampered his play, it is worth noting that Moore did not perform well when he was able to get on the field. Even at his peak, Moore was only adequate defensively, and his performance at the plate can only be described as 'Figginsian.' In fact, his .197/.231/.295 line is actually worse than what Chone compiled as a Mariner. And while it's tempting to blame injuries for an inept showing, his .511 OPS before the first malady (in 2010) is basically identical to the .519 mark he posted afterwards.
Moore is just 28, but he's been branded with the dreaded 'injury prone' label, a particularly damning designation for a catcher. Someone will probably take a flier on him because of his position and his stellar minor league track record, but he's facing an uphill battle to ever got another shot to start in the big leagues. For the Mariners though, his career will go down as a reminder to beware the 'high floor.'
Prospects are tabbed as high floor if they project to be solid every day players but lack a particularly strong skill. While it's intended to be a complimentary term, it's only given to players who scouts don't expect to turn into stars. A 'high floor' player instead has a broad array of decent abilities: he'll hit for a good average, draw a few walks, flash some power, play passable defense, and usually not overwhelm anyone with his speed.
The problem with these prospects is that they have very little margin for error. If a player is missing just one of those skills, he's a bench player; if he lacks two, he's below replacement level. Thus, while any prospect is prone to misevalulations, it's particularly problematic for those without an elite tool. For example, if a player who is projected to both hit and hit for power fails to do the former, his power may still allow him to carve out a career as a platoon bat with pop. For someone like Moore though, who saw both his hit and power tool fall well short of expectations, a lack of development was fatal to his career.
Hopefully Moore can get back on track. The bat often tends to develop a bit later for catchers than it does for other positions and perhaps a run of good health can jumpstart the process for Moore. But whether he establishes himself as a major leaguer or not, his career thus far does serve as a reminder that while the 'high floor' skillset is often perceived as a safe profile, there's never a guarantee with any prospect.