EVERETT — In the low minor leagues, position players are evaluated on five tools — hitting for average, hitting for power, throwing, running and fielding — rarely are any of those tools major-league ready.
That’s not the case for Everett AquaSox outfielder DeAires Moses. He already boasts one.
“DeAires has a carrying tool with that speed that you can build around,” Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said. “That’s kind of his game. It’s taking the other parts of his game — the defense, the offense — and building it around that (speed). He’s very fortunate. You can sit here at this age, look at him and say, ‘He has a tool that plays in the big leagues.’ Not every guy has that.”
Moses displayed his speed early in the Northwest League season, tying a franchise record set by Jamal Strong in 2000 by swiping four bags in Everett’s season opener at Tri-City.
“It was like an eye-opener to all the hard work I put in during extended spring training,” Moses said. “It really came to light during that very first game.”
Moses owes his professional career to a bit of serendipity.
He grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, and attended East Nashville Magnet, a high school that hardly knew it had a baseball team. Stands were barren, not only of college scouts, but fans in general.
But scouts stumbled onto Moses through different means. A team from Kentucky was set to play a weekend tournament at Middle Tennessee State University in the summer before his senior season at East Nashville Magnet and were short on players. That team’s coach was good friends with Moses’ high school coach, Keith Dearing, who texted Moses to see if he had any interest in playing.
“I went and I was nervous,” Moses said. “I’m playing center field for this team, not knowing anybody.”
That referral from his high school coach turned out to be one of the best things that’s happened to Moses. An impressive three-game campaign caught the eye of professional scouts.
Moses was drafted by the Mariners in the 31st round of the 2014 draft, but he elected to play at Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, Tennessee — just 30 minutes northeast of Nashville.
After hitting .337 with 12 doubles, four triples, two homers and 47 RBI in two years with the Pioneers, Moses signed with the Mariners after Seattle picked him again — this time in the 19th round of the 2016 draft.
While speed is Moses’ No. 1 tool, his ascent up the Mariners’ minor-league system has been anything but rapid. Moses spent his first three seasons in rookie ball at the Mariners’ Arizona complex. Moses experienced an injury-plagued season in 2018, playing just four games in the Arizona League.
Toiling away in the AZL and refining his skill-set tested his resilience.
“There were days where I was just like, ‘Man, I don’t know if I can do this,’ ” Moses said. “I look back to where I came from and I’m like, not being the best defender to being really good in the outfield now, from not being able to hit the ball hard to really barreling up balls now. I’ve come along way (from) where I started and it’s all a tribute to the coaches here.”
Moses fit the stereotype of a kid you probably remember growing up: He was always challenging his classmates to races, constantly trying to prove he’s the fastest.
“It’s kind of a cockiness,” Moses said. “I always wanted to be the fastest and it’s stuck with me, I guess. … I always wanted to win the field day 100-yard dash at my elementary school, and I won it (every year). Had to.”
But raw speed can take you only so far in baseball. Moses credits the coaches in extended spring training with helping him round out his skill-set, especially AquaSox hitting coach Joe Thurston, who helped him with reading pitchers on the basepaths.
With six outfielders on the AquaSox roster, playing time hasn’t been constant for Moses. Still, he was fifth in the NWL in stolen bases with 11 (despite having played in eight less games than Tri-City’s Reinaldo Ilarraza, who has 16) going into Thursday’s game at Vancouver.
He’s also hit the first two home runs of his career, one of which was an inside-the-park homer on June 28 against Tri-City. For the season, he was hitting .200 with a .367 on-base percentage going into Thursday’s game.
Further rounding out his skills will be the key to how far Moses advances in his pro career.
“It’s the same thing with most guys at this level, what you’re really looking for is consistency,” McKay said. “To be a big-league player, the manager needs to know what he’s going to get when he puts you in the lineup.”
Josh Horton covers the Everett AquaSox for the Daily Herald. Follow him on Twitter @JoshHortonEDH