Sunday Notes: Daniel Moskos; Undaunted, A Draft Bust Enters Phase Two of His Career

Daniel Moskos was drafted fourth-overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007. It was a dream come true for the Clemson University product, who went into that June day not knowing what to expect. Some teams viewed him as a starter, others saw him as a reliever, and he hadn’t been at his best in the ACC tournament. The uncertainty led to, in his own words, “a lot of stressful emotions.”

He thought his most-likely destination was Colorado. The Rockies (who ended up taking Casey Weathers) had the eighth pick and were reportedly looking for a close-to-ready college reliever who could conceivably contribute down the stretch. The Pirates more or less came out of the blue. While they’d shown interest, Moskos hadn’t receive a phone call prior to the pick being announced, nor had his advisor/agent.

Moskos isn’t in denial of what Pittsburgh probably had in mind.

“Given the way things played out, I have to assume they didn’t see me as someone would cause a financial concern,” said Moskos. “That’s something that steered their draft around that time: they looked more in the bargain-hunting bin than they did at the highest-profile guys. Whatever fault you want to put to that, they didn’t see me a signability issue.”

Moskos, whom Baseball America had projected to go eighth-overall, inked a $2.475M contract and set forth on a professional career that went anything but smoothly. Hampered by injuries and an inconsistent breaking ball, he ended up playing just one big-league season. In 2011, the southpaw came out of the Pirates bullpen 31 times and logged a 2.96 ERA over 24-and-a-third innings. Then his elbow started barking.

“I first hurt my elbow in 2012, but at the time I kind of just put a bandaid on it,” Moskos explained. “Eventually it blew out, and I ended up having Tommy John surgery [in 2014]. That derailed my career arc.”

The years that followed surgery were a veritable roller coaster. Moskos bounced between multiple organizations, and he also had stints in independent ball and the Mexican League. An especially frustrating moment came in 2017 when he failed a spring-training physical and was released by the Chicago Cubs. He was healthy enough to return to the Atlantic League and pitch well, but to no avail. No offers from big-league organizations were forthcoming.

“From there I went to winter ball down in Mexico and won Reliever of the Year,” said Moskos. “I was pretty much sitting 95 with my fastball, and running it to 97, but I still couldn’t get so much as a minor-league-camp invite. It got to the point of, ‘What do I have to do?’ I felt that Driveline could potentially answer that question, so I took my family to Seattle after the 2018 [Mexican League] season. I basically decided that I was going to give it one last hurrah. I was going to train like a madman, and whatever happens happens.”

What happened is that he fell in love with the program. Moreover, he also ‘got with the program.’ While his objective had been to continue his playing career — and progress was clearly being made toward that end — pragmatism ultimately won out. As Moskos put it, “The game is getting younger, and I was getting older.”

Impressed by his communication skills and embracing of technology, Driveline asked if he’d be interested in switching from the playing side to the coaching side. Moskos accepted the offer.

“What’s funny is that I’d always thought I’d play until I was no longer capable,” Moskos told me. “It was kind of, ’You’re going to have to pry the ball out of my cold, lifeless fingers.’ But I ended up hanging up my cleats when I was probably at my best. I’d figured out my breaking ball issues, and was starting to put things together, but it was just too little too late.”

Less than a year after being hired by Driveline, Moskos began hearing from teams: would he be interested in pursuing a coaching role in pro ball? The Cubs made inquiries, as did the Phillies, the Blue Jays. and the Dodgers. So did the New York Yankees, who went on to offer him the pitching coach position with their low-A affiliate, the Charleston River Dogs. He accepted the role in November, and commenced what he hopes will be a rewarding Phase Two of his baseball career.

He views Phase One more fondly than you might expect.

“I played baseball because I love the game,” Moskos explained. “That’s why I can process the path I’ve taken as a positive and not a negative. Was I a draft bust? Probably, depending on your definition. Was I an underachiever? For sure. In my own evaluation, I definitely underachieved. But I experienced a lot, and I went to Driveline and fell in love with the program, which resulted in me still being in baseball. I definitely view my path as a positive.”

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It is common knowledge that the negotiations between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association have been anything but congenial. It is also well known that Tony Clark heads the MLBPA. Moreover, many are aware that Andrew Miller, Daniel Murphy, and Max Scherzer are prominently involved as members of MLBPA’s executive subcommittee.

Somewhat less known is the structure on the other side of the negotiating table. Rob Manfred is the Commissioner, and there are 30 ownership groups, but beyond that…. let’s just say the identities of the people driving that proverbial train (Casey Jones you better watch your speed) are probably a mystery to most of you.

To a large degree, this is the answer:

MLB has a labor-policy committee comprising five owners who oversee work done in the Commissioner’s office. Dick Montfort (Rockies) heads the committee, which also includes Mark Attanasio (Brewers), Ray Davis (Rangers), Ron Fowler (Padres), and John Henry (Red Sox).

Per a well-placed MLB source, the owners “participate pretty regularly in the process.” As for the decision-making power of the Commissioner’s office, “The owners ultimately make the decisions.”

Assuming that’s true, exactly what role does the Commissioner’s office play in the negotiations? According to the source, the answer is “analysis, recommendations, and counsel, both on the legal side and on the economics.” Manfred’s staff presents the owners with options, then proceeds to “execute the labor relations,” dealing directly with the MLBPA.

The Commissioner himself? Is Rob Manfred an independent arbiter — think “The best interests of baseball” — or does he solely represent the interests of the owners?

“Historically, going all the way back to [Kenesaw Mountain] Landis, the idea was that the Commissioner was separate from the clubs; he was kind of like a benevolent overseer of the game,” the well-placed MLB source told me. “The job — the way it has developed in the modern world — is to represent the interests of the 30 clubs, while the Players Association represents the interests of the players.”

Whether that is ultimately good for the game is, in a word, questionable. Ditto what the owners are pushing for. Are the short-term financial savings truly what is best for their clubs in a long-term baseball sense?

The ongoing attempts to salvage some semblance of a 2020 baseball season will now head into yet another week. Based on the tone of the latest proposal, and the responses that followed from both sides, it could very well be an acrimonious week. As fans of the game, all we can do is hope for the best.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Jimmie Foxx went 3 for 8 against Howie Fox.

Howie Fox went 2 for 5 against Jimmie Foxx.

Walter Johnson went 2 for 9 against George Sisler.

George Sisler went 52 for 159 against Walter Johnson.

Ty Cobb went 15 for 47 against Babe Ruth.

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As Jay Jaffe wrote earlier this week, Matt Harvey has reportedly received interest from teams in Korea, and Japanese teams may be kicking the tires on the former Mets and Angels pitcher, as well. The likelihood of Harvey’s opting for NPB or the KBO is unknown, but one thing seems certain: more players than ever are exploring baseball opportunities in Asia. Given current conditions stateside — from labor unrest to a shortened draft to proposed minor-league contraction — that’s hardly a surprise.

“I think in the near term you’ll see more guys coming over,” opined Frank Herrmann, who is heading into his fourth NPB season. “Team officials and agents I talk to here say they have seen a huge spike in calls from [US] players, agents, and even scouts, about wanting to come over to Japan.”

Of course, the move isn’t as simple as deciding to switch continents. NPB teams can only have five foreign players on the active roster, only four of whom can play on a given day. (Most NPB teams have five to eight foreign players in their organization.) And then there are the current COVID-19 restrictions. Japan has a travel ban on US citizens until at least the end of June, and travelers will be subject to a two-week quarantine upon arrival.

“As it stands, any players coming over won’t be able to help a team until mid July at the earliest,” explained Herrmann. “Couple that with teams bleeding money on paying guaranteed salaries since February, and no games as of now, I think it will be tough to pull the trigger on any deals until clubs’ needs become clearer.”

Financial considerations typically play a big role in the decision to play in Japan.

“A lot of MLB players with 0-3 years of service can earn almost their double base salary here,” said Herrmann. “Japanese teams will be pretty accommodating with incentive bonuses, as well.”

Teams are also accommodating in that they provide a translator, but that only goes so far. Away from the field, non-Japanese-speakers can expect to be “pretty lost language-wise,” particularly in smaller cities. Metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka had more English speakers. Herrmann estimated that “around 60-70 percent of people I would interact with in a major city like Tokyo can communicate on at least on a basic level.” On the flip side, Herrmann has learned enough Japanese to get by when needed.

Herrmann is accommodating to those who follow in his footsteps.

“There’s a good bit of fraternizing between foreign players,” said Herrmann.  “Guys will go out of their way to say hello, or go grab a dinner or drink when in the other’s city.  As a veteran player who has been in Japan for several years, I’ll always offer to help out a new foreign player with advice on or off the field.  Guys like Dennis Sarfate did that for me back in 2017, so I try and pay it forward.”

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A quiz:

Yogi Berra is the only catcher to win three American League MVP awards. Who is the only catcher to win three National League MVP awards?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS ITEMS

Ryan O’Rourke announced his retirement earlier this week. An unranked former 13th-round draft pick yet to pitch above A-ball when he was first featured here at FanGraphs in 2013, O’Rourke went on make 54 relief appearances with the Minnesota Twins, and two more with the New York Mets. The Merrimack University grad plans to pursue a career in investment banking or private equity.

Bobby Locke, a right-handed pitcher for five teams from 1959-1968, died earlier this month at age 88. Locke hit his lone career home run — a three-run shot at Fenway Park — in his MLB debut, which came with the Cleveland Indians on June 18, 1959.

Claudell Washington, an outfielder for seven teams from 1974-1990, died this past Wednesday at age 65. He’d been battling prostate cancer. Washington had All-Star seasons with the Oakland A’s (1975) and Atlanta Braves (1984).

It’s not yet official, but the 2021 MLB schedule won’t be the originally-planned 2020 schedule bumped forward by a year. It is unclear if the divisional match-ups in place for this season will be carried over.

“The 45,” a new band featuring Cubs play-by-play voice Len Kasper, and Chicago sports-radio personality Matt Spiegel, has released their first single. You can check it out here.

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The answer to the quiz is Roy Campanella. The Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Famer was named NL MVP in 1951, 1953, and 1955.

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The Houston Astros had the first-overall pick in the 2012 draft and used it to select Carlos Correa out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. According to Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel, money was the deciding factor.

As explained in Future Value, the Astros felt there wasn’t a clear choice at the top of the draft, but rather a top tier comprising Correa, Mark Appel, Byron Buxton, and Max Fried. With draft pools in mind, Houston “reached out to all of them to see who would take the lowest bonus at the first pick.” That ended up being Correa ($4.8M) and only by the narrowest of margins. Per the book, “Fried’s number was incredibly close, within a few hundred thousand dollars, and he if came in a dollar below Correa, Fried would have been the No.1 overall pick.”

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Los Angeles Daily News, J.P. Hoornstra told us about how Dodgers coach George Lombard tries to honor the work of his civil rights activist mother.

Jack Lohrke, was a reserve infielder for the New York Giants when Bobby Thomson hit “The Shot Heard Round the World.” James McGee wrote about Lohrke in a book titled “The Baseball Odyssey,” and Mike McGreehan wrote about the book at The East Bay Times.

At Forbes, Schlomo Sprung wrote about how Garrett Broshuis and Advocates For Minor Leaguers is stepping for players as MLB drops the ball.

The Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman shared Forbes’ listing of MLB’s wealthiest team owners. Red Sox principal owner John Henry ranks sixth with an estimated personal wealth of $2.7 billion.

At The Idaho Statesman, Michael Lycklama told us how the Boise Hawks, and other teams in the short-season Northwest League, still haven’t been told if they’ll be playing this summer.

At Montana Sports, Tom Wylie wrote about how the state’s rich baseball history is facing an inflection point du to MLB’s contraction plans.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Danny Goodwin was twice the first-overall pick in the MLB draft — in 1971 by the White Sox out of a Peoria, Illinois high school, and in 1975 by the Angels out of Southern University. Goodwin went on to play for three teams over parts of seven big-league seasons. Primarily a DH, he had 150 career hits.

Ron Blomberg — best known as the baseball’s first ever DH — was the first-overall pick of the 1967 draft. The Yankees took Blomberg out of an Atlanta high school.

Alex Rodriguez (696) and Ken Griffey Jr. (630) have the most home runs of players who were taken first overall. Both were drafted by the Seattle Mariners.

Indians Hall of Famer Addie Joss allowed 19 home runs and issued 364 walks in 2,327 career innings. His ERA+ was 143.

In 1907, Ty Cobb won the AL batting title with a .350 average; he walked 24 times in 636 plate appearances. In 1947, Ted Williams won the AL batting title with a .343 average; he walked 162 times in 692 plate appearances.

Sandy Koufax went 0 for 10 with nine strikeouts against Bob Gibson. Bob Gibson went 2 for 11 with seven strikeouts against Sandy Koufax.

On June 12, 1949, Lloyd Hittle singled off of Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser in his first big-league at bat. A left-handed pitcher for the Washington Senators, went 5 for 41 in his short career.

On June 14, 1965, Johnny Lewis homered in the 11th inning to give the New York Mets a 1-0 win over the Cincinnati Reds. The blast broke up a no-hitter by Cincinnati’s Jim Maloney, who’d allowed just two baserunners — one on a walk, the other on a strikeout/wild pitch — through 10 innings. Maloney finished the game with 18 strikeouts.

On June 18, 1977, Seattle southpaw Rick Jones walked 11 batters, and fanned just one, in nine-and-a-third innings against the Texas Rangers. Jones got the win — his only one that season — as the Mariners prevailed 6-1 in 10 innings.

The roster of the 1905 World Series champion New York Giants — the team Moonlight Graham made his cameo with — included Theophilus Fountain Neal. An infielder who went by the name “Offa,” Neal was 0 for 13 in his lone MLB season.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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DDD
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DDD

Speculation on how many/which UDFAs will take a contract in the NPB or KBO (or possibly even somewhere else) instead of taking the $20K from MLB?

Phil Lee
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Member
Phil Lee

I really can’t imagine anyone taking the $20K. College kids have the option of another year of eligibility. HS kids will go to college. Then the big question mark of MiLB status and future.