Phil Wood: Nationals backup Tyler Moore is too good not to get more of a chance

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Just before Opening Day, I used this space to opine that the Nationals should think seriously about making converted pitcher Micah Owings their righty-hitting backup first baseman/outfielder/pinch hitter in 2013. Owings had signed a minor league contract last winter and turned in an impressive spring, batting .324 with 10 RBIs in 37 at-bats. At 30, he seemed to be the ideal bench player, and he would allow Tyler Moore an opportunity to play every day at Syracuse.

Owings, however, was assigned to the Chiefs. Getting him on the opening day roster would have required a roster move: Either someone would have to be taken off of the 40-man roster or someone would have to be sufficiently injured to be placed on the 60-day disabled list. Neither solution seemed viable to the team's decision makers, so Moore stayed with the big club.

Moore was a revelation last year, hitting 10 home runs and driving in 29 in only 156 at-bats. He didn't get many reps (only seven starts) at first base, his natural position, because Adam LaRoche was having such a solid year with the bat and glove. Injuries in the outfield, however, opened the door for Moore to appear in 75 games. He's on pace to receive similar playing time this year, but under ordinary circumstances, he would be entitled to expect some additional time on the field.

But where would you put him? Adam LaRoche's new contract keeps him anchored to first base through 2014 (and his stroke at the plate seems to have returned -- entering this weekend's series with the Cubs, he was hitting .429 in May) and the arrival of Denard Span in center field gives the Nats a consistent everyday outfield of Harper-Span-Werth.

I doubt that Moore envisioned himself as a bench player at age 26. He had back-to-back 31-homer seasons in Single-A and Double-A and was on his way to a third at Triple-A when he was called up last year. He's a legit right-handed power hitter who could easily be the starting first baseman on a number of clubs. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo never had a minor-league year like any of Moore's and he's already been the key cog in two major trades, going from Boston to San Diego to Chicago. He's a couple of years younger than Moore, but Moore came to professional baseball out of college and Rizzo from high school.

They say you can never have too many good players, and that's true. However, when you're as loaded as the Nationals seem to be with high-ceiling prospects, sometimes somebody gets hurt developmentally. Moore has Major League skills. On Thursday, manager Davey Johnson told reporters that "getting Tyler Moore going" was a priority. Easier said than done when the club is playing well and everyone is pretty healthy.

Tyler Moore is too good to be allowed to fall through the cracks. The solution to his situation is a chapter yet to be written.

Examiner columnist Phil Wood co-hosts the "Mid-Atlantic Sports Report" and is a regular contributor to "Nats Xtra" on MASN. Contact him at philwood@washingtonexaminer.com.

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Phil Wood

Staff reporter - sports
The Washington Examiner