Moore making most of opportunity after replacing Albies in fall league

Dylan Moore has played eight games at second base, three at shortstop and been the DH twice.

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Dylan Moore has played eight games at second base, three at shortstop and been the DH twice.

PHOENIX – Until last month, Dylan Moore’s most notable achievement as a minor leaguer was playing every position except catcher during the 2016 season for the Texas Rangers’ Single-A Hickory affiliate.

That was before the California native was traded to the Braves Aug. 24 in a three-team deal that sent Jeff Francoeur to the Marlins. And before he was brought from high-A Carolina to Double-A Mississippi after second-base prospect Ozzie Albies fractured an elbow in a playoff game, then was called upon to replace Albies in the Arizona Fall League.

Now we’ve got a situation where Moore has followed up an impressive second-half performance this season by playing so well in the prospect-laden fall league that he’s become a legitimate prospect himself.

Despite playing only two of the Salt River Rafters’ six weekly games because of his “taxi squad” designation, Moore created buzz in Arizona by going 10-for-30 (.333) with two doubles, two home runs, a team-best 1.012 OPS and only two strikeouts in eight games through Wednesday.

“Yeah, it’s been a good gig,” Moore said, smiling. “Just trying to make the most of my opportunity.”

He had hits in six of his first seven games, including three multi-hit games. In an Oct. 22 game at Mesa, he went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, two RBIs and a walk.

“Oh, yeah, he’s showing out,” said outfielder Dustin Peterson, another of seven Braves minor leaguers playing for Salt River. “He’s tearing it up out here. Fun to watch, too. It’s awesome to see other guys within the organization do well.”

When the Braves got Moore in a trade for Jeff Francoeur, many observers assumed there was little chance he would ever make an impact in the major leagues if he made it there at all. He wasn’t among the Rangers’ top 30 prospects.

But Braves officials insisted at the time of the trade that he was a prospect with speed and power, and now others are becoming believers.

“He’s a guy we were very excited to get in a trade,” said Braves general manager John Coppolella, who was watching a game last week at Surprise, Ariz., with a reporter from Atlanta when Moore, playing shortstop, made a spectacular diving catch of a line drive.

“That was a great play,” Coppolella said. “He can do a lot of things and brings speed and power. This guy plays the game the right way, takes the extra base, he does all the little things. We feel like he’s got a very bright future.”

Listed as 6 feet and 185 pounds, Moore is older, at 24, than most players in the minor leagues he’s been in, because he spent four years at two colleges before being drafted by the Rangers in the seventh round from Central Florida in 2015.

He hit .271 with 29 extra-base hits (seven homers) and an .830 OPS in 69 games in 2015, all but four games in low-A. And after a slow start in 2016 for Hickory, he heated up at midseason and hit .269 with 46 extra-base hits (13 homers) and 42 stolen bases in 535 plate appearances, including 101 games at Hickory and 27 in high-A.

Moore was sizzling when promoted to high-A, then kept up the pace. He hit .351 with five homers and a 1.049 OPS in 17 games for High Desert in the hitter-friendly California League, then .343 with four doubles and a .415 on-base percentage for the Braves’ Carolina affiliate.

“The first half in low-A was a struggle for me,” Moore said. “I feel like I tried to be someone who I wasn’t, I tried to bring out a different element in myself that wasn’t there. The second half, I just tried to relax and be myself, and that’s when I really took off.”

Asked to describe himself as a hitter, Moore said, “Obviously staying within myself is a big part of my game. I’ll take my walks, I want to be an on-base guy. I can steal bags. I’m just kind of a high-energy ballplayer who tries to be a tough out. That’s how I’ve always been taught to play the game.”

After Albies broke his elbow on a swing in a Sept. 7 playoff game for Double-A Mississippi, the Braves called Moore from high-A to help Mississippi. Playing his first games above the Single-A level, Moore went 4-for-9 with a walk in five playoff games for Mississippi, including two-hit games in each of two starts in place of Albies.

During the Southern League championship series, Moore was picked by the Braves to replace Albies in the Arizona Fall League. He would take the taxi-squad spot that had been assigned to Braves infield prospect Travis Demeritte, who moved up to fill Albies’ full-time slot for Salt River.

“I love playing with Dylan, he’s awesome,” said Demeritte, another former Rangers minor leaguer traded to the Braves last season. “He’s a high-energy guy, you know you can count on him to give you everything he’s got every day. You love seeing that out of your player.

“That (Moore trade) was a great pickup for (the Braves).”

Moore said when told he would replace Albies in the fall league, “I was excited about it. It sucks that Ozzie went down with that injury. But I just want to make the most of my opportunity.”

The Braves expect Albies, who’ll turn 20 in January, to be recovered in time for spring training and compete for the starting second-base job then or later in the season. As for Moore, there could be a major league job in his future.

“High-energy player, always takes the extra base,” Coppolella said. “And he’s real good around the base (defensively). He can play a number of spots. I don’t want to sell him short because I’m not saying he can’t be an every-day player, but the more versatility that you have – Ben Zobrist just won the 2016 World Series MVP (award) and he plays a number of different spots. Maybe this guy can turn into that kind of player, where he’s playing all over.”

Most of Moore’s minor league starts have come at first base and shortstop, but he’s comfortable at any of four infield positions and made seven starts in the outfield for Hickory, including three at each corner position. He even pitched an inning for (that didn’t go well; he gave up seven hits).

“I got to play with him a little bit at Mississippi when he came and helped us out during that playoff run,” Peterson said. “I saw a little bit of what he can do, but really out here (in Arizona) I’ve been like, wow, this guy, he’s a good player. He can swing it, he can pick it in the infield, and he’s a great guy, as well.”