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Moseley Still Pitching, 11 Years After Season with Dragons

December 6, 2012 - Midwest League (MWL) Dayton Dragons

On June 5, 2000, the Cincinnati Reds and manager Jack McKeon resided in first place in the National League Central Division. On this date, the Reds, who were contending for a championship after losing a one-game playoff for the N.L. wildcard spot the previous year, would participate in baseball's annual first-year player draft. They hoped to find future replacements for a lineup featuring three position players at least 35 years old including veteran shortstop Barry Larkin. The Reds also hoped to add pitching prospects in the draft. While their team earned run average that season ranked a credible fifth in the league, the staff was built around veterans like Steve Parris, Pete Harnisch, Denny Neagle, and Osvaldo Fernandez, all on the back sides of their careers.

One hour up interstate 75, the Reds new Midwest League affiliate, the Dayton Dragons, were enjoying their first year of operation, in the infancy of a sell-out streak that would one day break the record for all of sports in North America. The Dragons club, led by outstanding young manager Freddie Benavides, featured young outfielders Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns, and would also benefit from some additions from that day's draft.

The Reds held the 23rd overall selection in the first round and also had the fourth pick of the supplemental first round, the 34th overall selection, as compensation for losing free agent pitcher Juan Guzman. They would address both glaring needs with the two picks.

But for whatever reason, the first round of the 2000 draft would turn out to become an enigma for 27 of the 30 Major League clubs. Only three players drafted in the first 40 picks would ever justify their selections. First overall pick Adrian Gonzalez of the Marlins, 15th overall selection Chase Utley of the Phillies, and 29th overall pick Adam Wainwright of the Braves have gone on to outstanding careers. But every other pitcher taken in the first round posted a losing record in the big leagues, or never made it at all. Seven of the top 14 picks, where teams hope to select future all-stars, never saw a day in the Major Leagues. Several that did get there saw only brief time. The top of the draft was filled with names like Mike Stodolka, Matt Wheatland, and one player, Matt Harrington, the seventh overall selection, who never played a game in the Majors or the Minors.

With their top pick, the Reds drafted a shortstop who they hoped could someday play the position occupied by the then 36-year-old Larkin, David Espinosa, a high school star from Coral Gables, Florida. With the 34th pick, the Reds drafted an 18-year-old pitcher from Texarkana, Arkansas, Dustin Moseley, who would one day become the 18th Dayton Dragons player to play in the Major Leagues.

Espinosa spent the 2001 season with the Dragons and batted .262 with seven home runs in 122 games at shortstop. The next season, the Reds would move Espinosa to second base and then trade him to the Tigers for Major League pitcher Brian Moehler. Espinosa never reached the Major Leagues. His last year in affiliated Minor League Baseball was 2007, but he was still playing independent pro ball in 2012 at the age of 30.

Meanwhile, Moseley progressed quickly through the Reds farm system. He spent the entire 2001 season with the Dragons as a 19-year-old, going 10-8 with a 4.20 earned run average for manager Donnie Scott. Moseley's 148 innings in Dayton that season still rank as the fifth highest total in Dragons history. In four starts that season, Moseley did not allow a single run. His best game came in July against Kane County when he fired eight shutout innings and allowed only two base hits.

Following his season in Dayton, Moseley was rated by Baseball America as the #5 prospect in the Reds organization. Their scouting report on Moseley offered much encouragement for Reds fans looking for a future big league starter. They noted that Moseley "has shown a great feel for pitching since his high school days" and that his "fastball is gaining velocity...he regularly sits at 90-91 with good life...his curveball is a plus pitch, ranking with Josh Hall's for the system's best."

Moseley was even better the next season in the California League with Stockton, going 6-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 14 starts, good enough to earn him a mid-season promotion to Double-A Chattanooga at the young age of 20. He held his own with the Lookouts, going 5-6 with a 4.13 ERA in 13 starts and he once again was rated as the #5 prospect in the organization heading into 2003.

Moseley spent parts of the next two seasons at both Chattanooga and Triple-A Louisville. He was listed as the Reds #4 prospect after the 2003 season and continued to progress in 2004. But the 2004 season was a disappointing year overall for the Reds, and manager Dave Miley was on the hot seat heading into 2005. Desperately short of dependable starting pitching, the Reds traded the 22-year-old Moseley to the Angels for veteran Major League pitcher Ramon Ortiz, who was coming off a year when he won five and lost seven. The Reds gambled that a change of scenery for Ortiz would bring about a return to his success of 2001-'03 when Ortiz averaged 15 wins per season. The result was disappointing. Ortiz spent just one season in Cincinnati, went 9-11 with a 5.36 ERA, and was gone. After a 27-43 start, Miley was replaced in June as manager by Jerry Narron.

Meanwhile, Moseley made his big league debut with the Angels in 2006 with a brief audition. He came back in 2007 and pitched in 46 games for the Angels, going 4-3 with a 4.40 ERA in the hitter-friendly American League West, but underwent elbow surgery after the season. He struggled in 2008 and then missed almost all of 2009 after hip surgery. Moseley joined the Yankees in 2010 and went 4-4 with a 4.96 ERA. He moved to the San Diego Padres in 2011 and delivered the finest work of his big league career despite a frustrating season, posting an outstanding ERA of 3.30 yet rewarded with just a 3-10 record in 20 starts. He missed the last two months of the season after injuring his non-throwing shoulder swinging a bat. In April of 2012, after just one start with the Padres, Moseley was bitten by the injury bug again. He underwent season-ending surgery on his throwing shoulder. He is a free agent heading into 2013.

Moseley has pitched in 101 Major League games with a record of 15-21. Only four of the 24 pitchers drafted in that first round of 2000 have posted more big league wins than Moseley. The Reds 2000 draft overall was also disappointing. No pitcher selected by the Reds ever played for them in the big leagues. Of the position players drafted, only two, outfielder Stephen Smitherman and catcher Dane Sardinaha played for the Reds. Better days were coming.

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Midwest League Stories from December 6, 2012


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